Say two words to many people in Oak Ridge and you get the same reaction: stomachs growl, mouths water, and memories flow. Big Ed's is local and loved by all.
Nothing sizzles quite like a slice of Big Ed's pizza. The locals love it. One local in particular remembers hitting up this hot spot often when she was a girl.
"I remember coming here many times growing up with my family, with my Girl Scout troop. We would come and we would get a pitcher of root beer and it was just the best. And nothing has changed. They still have the little tiny plates and the plastic forks. The pizza is so hot when it comes out that it would practically melt the fork," says Moira Kaye.
This Brownie turned beauty queen is now on the wall. "You know that's one of the things I am most proud of, is my picture has been hanging in Big Ed's," says Kaye.
Big Ed's is a classic, a staple, a tradition for many in Oak Ridge. "Everybody enjoys what we do and how we do it. We've got a lot of kids that we employ here and we're part of the community and after 42 years we should be," says restaurant owner David Neusel.
But Big Ed's didn't start in Oak Ridge. It actually began in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1961, when David Neusel was a young boy and the son of Big Ed.
It was a successful business until it burned down in 1969. So, Big Ed and the family moved back to where they came from, Michigan, but the schools just didn't measure up.
"My father, being a person with a 9th grade education, valued higher education very much," says Neusel
So, Oak Ridge was an obvious next step. Big Ed's was born again in Oak Ridge in 1970, and it became a fixture in the local community.
"Big Ed would be sitting at the bar and people would talk to him and he would be there all night," says Kaye.
"You walk in that door and he could read you, who you were, what you were, what you were gonna do. If you were going to walk out without paying he was waiting for you as you got up from your table. He could read people," says Neusel.
"I always knew growing up that Big Ed himself mentored young people in our community and was generous to the community in many ways. I don't think he was the type of person who took credit for all that he did," says Kaye.
And he was an excellent businessman. "There's still a lot of practices that we maintain in the way we do our product," says Neusel.
David says the secret to their success is all in the pizza. "Of course the quality of product is always the first thing. We don't cut corners in our product," says Neusel.
And David would know. He's now running the business after time in the Navy, getting an engineering degree, and working more than a decade at Oak Ridge National Lab. His father passed away and now he's carrying on the delicious tradition.
"First of all, nobody can fill his footprints. Hopefully, I'm following along and whenever I need him the next time, he'll pat me on the back or he'll smack me over on the back of the head," says Neusel.
Big Ed's is loved here and that can even be seen overseas.
"Even now when I travel, I will be out West, I've even been overseas and seen a Big Ed's t-shirt and I'm proud of that. It's part of my city," says Kaye.
Big Ed's. One of Your Stories. There's no place like this one.