It's Your Business: Firehouse Pizza plans May debut at Zelma's site

It's Your Business: Firehouse Pizza plans May debut at Zelma's site

A pizza chain that got its start in the Peoria area is coming to the former Zelma's site on Windsor Road in Champaign.

Firehouse Pizza plans to open at 1103 W. Windsor Road, C, in mid-May, said Erik Perkins, who with his partners Marcus Hazel and Edward Flores operates three other Firehouse Pizzas in Illinois — at Washington, Morton and Normal.

"We're a family-friendly restaurant, and we have a TV in every booth," Perkins said. "It's great for sports people who want to watch games, and for people who have kids that watch Nickelodeon."

As you might guess from the name, pizza is the restaurant's major focus. Firehouse offers three types of crusts — thin crust, New York hand-tossed and deep-dish. Both a traditional sauce and a sweeter sauce are available.

The Firehouse menu also includes sandwiches, pasta bowls, breadsticks, garlic bread and a variety of appetizers, he said. The restaurant will serve beer and wine, but not liquor.

"We'll be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and a little later on weekends," Perkins said. "Half our business is dine-in, and half is carryout and delivery. We have a lunch buffet during the day, with a pretty extensive salad bar for a pizza place and quite a few (pizza) pies out there as well."

Firehouse Pizza was started by Shane Couri and his firefighter brother, Kelly Couri. Perkins said the Couris still own the Firehouse Pizza in Peoria and other owners have the restaurants in East Peoria and Quincy.

Perkins said he and his partners got into the business almost four years ago. They recently bought the brand, he said, and are getting ready to franchise the brand.

If the name seems familiar, it's because Perkins was one of the owners of the Fire Station, which opened at 510 E. John St. in Champaign's Campustown in 2011.

Perkins said he and his partners in that venture thought they could adapt the format for a campus location, but quickly learned it's tough to sell a higher-end pizza on campus. Many college kids put their money toward beer and settle for cheap pizza, he said.

So the Fire Station closed in 2012, and the White Horse Inn took over the lease at that location.

Perkins said he and his current partners chose the new site on Windsor partly because they had worked with Ralph Monical of Zelma's before.

"He helped us out with the dough processes, trying to improve our crust," Perkins said.

"He was wanting to close the store up and said he'd sell all the equipment if we were interested in expanding into Champaign," Perkins said. "It looked like a good fit for us so we're giving it a shot."

Perkins said he plans to be on site at the new restaurant for the first three to six months and expects to bring in some experienced assistant managers.

For more information on Firehouse Pizza, check the website,

Another Einstein

Einstein Bros. Bagels has opened a second location, this time in the food court on the lower level of the Illini Union.

The restaurant offers bagels and coffee throughout the day and bagel thin sandwiches at lunchtime. Also on the menu: wraps, bagel dogs, egg recipes, vegetarian choices, soups and salads.

Hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.

"We are looking forward to bringing an additional eating alternative to round out the food court, and opening our second Urbana location in the heart of the university campus is a perfect choice," said owner Marc Bralts.

Einstein Bros. Bagels already has a restaurant at the southwest corner of Lincoln and University avenues in Urbana.

The Einstein Noah Restaurant Group operates and licenses locations under both the Einstein Bros. and Noah's New York Bagels brands. Its system includes more than 800 restaurants in 40 states.

Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.

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jdmac44 wrote on March 31, 2013 at 11:03 am

Aw man, I was thinking the person taking over was continuing the same pizza!  Now I don't really like the old Monical's anymore and Zelma's is really gone.  :op  Hey Ralph, if you're reading this, how about helping Monical's to make their pizza as the new one you developed?

lheil243 wrote on March 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

AWWW no, I thought whoever was buying the old Zelma's was going to stick with its same menu!!!!  Our family is heartbroken!!!  Please come back Ralph Monical, it was the best pizza ever!!!

Orbiter wrote on March 31, 2013 at 9:03 pm

"Many college kids put their money toward beer and settle for cheap pizza, he said."

(1) Will you PLEASE stop referring to the adults enrolled at the U of I as "kids"?  If they're buying beer, they darn-well better be adults!  There is no such thing as a "college kid" unless you're discussing goats on the research farm.  They will behave according to your expectations.  Tell them you expect juvenile behavior, and that's what you'll get.

(2) Can we PLEASE have some variety in new restaurants? The last thing we need is another pizza or Asian place.  Sure would be nice to have something in Greek or in Vegetarian or in Middle Eastern or in French or in Scandanavian.  How about the many cuisines of the African continent--Morroccan, Ethiopian, Nigerian?  How about some Central American--Guatemalan, Colombian, Peruvian, Chilean? (Kudos to Escobar, which does very well but can't by itself cover everything south of Mexico!)