Living the American Dream
This year’s Fourth of July parade grand marshal is Roger Diedrichsen, owner of the Pizza Barn — a longtime gathering place for Greenwave athletes, families as well as attracting student workers.
“I’m extremely flattered and very honored,” he said of being asked to be marshal. “But I was surprised.”
Like surely many locals who have been parade marshal, by the end of the interview, it’s not so surprising.
Diedrichsen has three grandchildren and raised two daughters. He grew up in Sparks and went to the University of Nevada, Reno, before heading to Fallon to start the Pizza Barn with one of his two brothers. Diedrichsen and his younger twin brothers as well as their father have enjoyed family business operations.
“We’ve always been part of a business together, regardless of location,” he said.
The family has been part of area restaurants in Elko and Gardnerville, and Diedrichsen said they enjoy Basque dining in addition to pizza. He also explained how the longtime civic leader Carl Dodge, also a legislator and rancher, wanted a pizza restaurant in the shopping center Dodge started on Williams Avenue.
The restaurant climbed to success including being featured in Edible Reno-Tahoe Magazine. The teacher-turned-restaurateur admitted at the start of that article that he had no clue what he was doing, something many eventually successful people might say when taking a risk.
Diedrichsen had worked in a pizza parlor in college for a year.
He said he and his brother Lane sat on cartons in the empty restaurant in 1978 with beers in hand, and he recalled they thought, “What happens if no one likes us?” Diedrichsen said he realized they had to be part of the community, not just operate in it, and find their niche.
The restaurant opened that month, the November the Churchill County High School football team took state; everyone celebrated at the Pizza Barn, which the owner said was packed to the gills.
Kim Klenakis with the Downtown Merchants Association, the entity organizing the parade and more, said when the event theme “Small Town USA” was chosen and the members were brainstorming a local business-focused marshal, “overwhelmingly Roger’s name came to mind.”
Klenakis said Diedrichsen personifies small-town business, from his reading program to the Barn reminding residents of Friday nights, being little kids then in their teen years then becoming parents. She said he’s always been active in the community — sometimes behind the scenes — and contributes to youths’ lives by offering flexible work schedules so they can have a job and still focus on academics and be part of extracurriculars.
“He just kind of embodied that small-town business feeling,” she said, adding he buys a lot of local produce and meat for his menu items. “It just seems like a really good fit this year for Fallon. And I think he’s kind of one of those unsung heroes … he’s not out there looking for the glory.”
Diedrichsen mentioned some of his young employees are legacies — carrying on a tradition their parents or grandparents started.
“That adds to the place,” he said warmly, also indicating walls decorated with old photos and memorabilia.
Diedrichsen noted the Pizza Barn team is very proud of their product; “we really do believe we are that good.”
“I think this is probably one of the most unpretentious places in the world,” he added, mentioning a friend told him once that it’s far more important to be a local character than a local big shot. “I still can’t spell entrepreneur … I’m just going on making a living. I do what I like to do and if I can help people out, I do.”
When asked about living the American dream, he said:
“Yeah, I guess that really is the case. It’s kind of humbling.”