Cooked: Pizza Hut manager calls it a career
March 24, 2023
After 38 years, Beth Ninneman worked her last shift at the Cloquet Pizza Hut on Monday. As usual, she was doing a little bit of everything: waiting on customers, taking orders, cleaning, hiring, cooking, doing dishes, joking with staff and generally making sure all was well at the 46-year-old restaurant.
"The customers and my crew kept me here this long," said Ninneman, a Yooper (from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) who moved to Cloquet to manage the Pizza Hut here. "There are people here I've worked with for over 20 years."
Some things don't change - like the thin and crispy crust she loves - but others do. The pandemic created upheaval across the world, and at the Cloquet Pizza Hut. The restaurant never closed, but the dining room was shut down for a time while deliveries and carryout orders continued. But when the dining room reopened, many regular customers didn't return.
Employee applications didn't rebound either.
"We were fully staffed before Covid, I'm not sure where everyone went afterward," she said.
Some customers did return to indoor dining. That included Penney and Del Prevost, who were there for lunch and to thank Beth on her last day.
Penney said Beth became a dear friend.
"We started out as strangers and a warm caring relationship was created," she said. "Beth always came to the forefront when I had losses in my life ... her people skills, leadership and positive attitude drew us close to her."
Del and Penney also praised Ninneman's support of community fundraisers over the years, and the fact that she worked every job at Pizza Hut as needed.
Ninneman might not have chosen to retire, but said it's become difficult to keep the restaurant fully staffed, and her husband doesn't want her to keep working 60 to 70 hours a week, up from her more normal 50-hour weeks.
Still, she will miss all the people who have become part of her life through the restaurant, staff and customers.
"I am truly gonna miss them," she said, heartfeltly.
A voracious reader of books and newspapers (including the Pine Knot), Ninneman is looking forward to more time with her nose in a book, but predicts that won't be enough. She suspects a part-time job will come.
"There's no way I can sit still that long," she said.