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'Bent but not broken': Trailhead Pizzeria reopens after car crashed into building


Kitchen manager Jake Garner flips pizza dough Feb. 6 at Trailhead Pizzeria. Trailhead Pizzeria reopened in late January after a car drove through and destroyed part of the restaurant in September. Claire Livingston

Bloomington’s Trailhead Pizzeria reopened in late January, nearly five months after a driver veered off a curve on State Road 446 and smashed through the front of the family-owned restaurant. 

The picnic tables were run over, the fans bent and the outside wall replaced by a tarp after the 5 a.m. accident on Sept. 1. No one was taken to the hospital.

Now, that once-destroyed room can fit almost twice as many people, the kitchen is more visible to customers and the space between the restaurant’s two rooms is more fluid, among several other alterations. 

“We were bent but not broken,” co-owner Mark Bell said. 

Trailhead Pizzeria is open Thursday through Saturday 4-9 p.m. and Sunday 4-8 p.m.

The day after the accident, employees transferred to Scenic View, the family’s other restaurant, General Manager Jessica Fitch said. The management team hired an almost completely new staff for the reopening. 

The team includes head kitchen manager Jake Garner, who has worked with pizza for nearly two decades, most recently at King Dough. A pizza tattoo marks his hand. 

“It kind of always came natural to me,” he said. 

Garner’s menu changes include a new dough, a revamped marinara sauce and a house-made white-wine Alfredo. 

For now the menu focuses on pizza, salads and appetizers. It has three new pizzas named Leave No Trace, the Ranger and the Compass, a dairy-free option. The kitchen staff will reintroduce sandwiches and calzones over time, Fitch said.

Rebuilding was a family and community effort, Bell said, one that matches the restaurant’s family and community feel. 

The pizzeria bought furniture from King Dough, which closed in Bloomington in December, and Scholar’s Keep, which closed in July. Family helped repaint. 

“So many people helped us out,” Bell said. “People say that’s why you’re in Indiana.” 

The 2019 crash was the second time someone has driven into the restaurant in seven years. Patchy car tracks from the most recent accident scar part of the floor — a reminder, Bell said. 

But Bell said he isn’t nervous about more destruction.  He plans to update the landscaping outside the restaurant to create a buffer between the building and the road. 

Community regulars are starting to revisit. 

The restaurant has family-friendly karaoke on Thursday nights, live music on Fridays and Saturdays and open mics on the first and third Sundays of each month. 

At the pizzeria's first karaoke night Thursday, kids belted out Taylor Swift as pizza and breadsticks streamed out of the kitchen and waitresses sang along. 

Fitch recognized a man who came in to place a carry-out order. 

“Welcome back!” she said, grinning. “I told you we were finally going to open up.”

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