DiPietro family employs more than 400 Stark Countians; invests millions of dollars into its multiple businesses and our community.

Some things have changed since Joe “Papa Bear” and Georgia DiPietro opened the first Pizza Oven in 1956 on West Tuscarawas in Canton.

That shop wasn’t even required to have a cooler inside, and pizza wasn’t yet a staple for a wide range of ethnicities.

Today, a second generation of DiPietros — Steve and Dave — own and operate the eight Pizza Oven locations.

They’ve got to deal with multiple restaurant regulatory agencies, and now nearly every resident of Stark County is a potential customer.

But, some things have stayed exactly the same. Hard work and a dedication to customers remain key ingredients to Pizza Oven’s success.

“The best lesson my father taught us was to not be afraid of hard work,” Steve said. “He told us, ‘Every job is your job. Don’t take customers for granted. Give them quality food at a fair price, and you’ll do alright.’”

The brothers haven’t forgotten those lessons. They’ve been in the business nearly as long as they’ve been walking and talking. For Dave, that’s about 46 years, and for Steve, nearly 50.

“I remember being at the store when I was five or six,” Steve said. “We’d be there until the wee hours of the morning and would fall asleep on flour sacks.”

When Joe got histoplasmosis, a lung disease, he couldn’t be around flour dust at the pizza shop. So, he bought Skyland Pines Golf Course in 1972, and Papa Bear’s Italian Restaurant opened in 1988.

Steve and Dave bought the Pizza Oven locations, Papa Bear’s and Skyland Pines in 2002. Building on their father’s lessons, they began diversifying.

The DiPietros also own Massillon Energy & Technology Park, Massillon Logistics, Ohio Frieght Car Services, Postiy’s/Tomasino Meats, RSL Railroad, Stark Transloading, Tiger Sand & Gravel and Tiger Tarps. The family businesses employ 435 people in Stark County.

“We go to great lengths to keep things local — our employees, plumbers, electricians, food suppliers and bankers,” Dave said. “We’ve formed some great local partnerships.”

The brothers are proud that Pizza Oven is a Stark County staple.

“The Stark County trifecta is a stop at Heggy’s, Pizza Oven and Taggart’s,” Steve said. “As the world changes, we keep things pretty much the same. That’s why people keep coming back.”

Pizza Oven has catered for large local employers, including Aultman and Timken.

“We can feed as few as one and as many as 6,000 people,” Dave said. “That’s possible because of our solid core of Stark County people.”

Pizza Oven has three employees with more than 40 years of service, and one with more than 50. That employee, Janice Coen, is 80 and was recently encouraged to slow down a bit.

The DiPietro’s businesses truly are family businesses.

Joe and Georgia had six children. Dave and Steve are in day-to-day operations, and their sister, Stephanie Condric, assists.

Steve’s son, Brayton, and daughter and son-in-law, Giavana and Garret Kloots, and Dave’s daughters, Dominicue and Mackenzie, are involved in the family’s businesses.

“We hire people with the same values as our family,” Dave said. “We’re always looking for good people.”

Between updating Pizza Oven locations and upgrading other businesses, the DiPietros have invested millions of dollars in Stark County in recent years.

“We never stop investing in our future,” Steve said. “We look for opportunities to invest in our businesses and in our community. We can’t rest on our laurels.”

So, what are the keys to success?

“You’ve got to do your research, know your markets, stay out of debt, work hard and be flexible,” Steve said. “If you don’t, you’ll get run over by the train.”

The DiPietros support local nonprofits. To celebrate Pizza Oven’s 50th anniversary in 2006, the family held a block party to benefit the Canton Ex-Newsboys, a charity providing less-fortunate Stark County children with clothing and shoes. It was a hit, so it’s been held the second Friday in January for 13 years and counting.

It’s no secret. It takes hard work and long hours to be successful in business. The DiPietros cherish that mantra.

“We work a lot of hours,” Dave said. “The gravel pit opens at 6 a.m., and the pizza shops close at midnight.”

Things will continue to change in business and in Stark County.

But, that Stark County work ethic and commitment will keep Pizza Oven and the DiPietro’s other businesses running strong at least another 62 years.