It’s not just princesses who are regulars at Park Hill’s oldest neighborhood-owned and -operated pizzeria.
All sorts of characters are regulars at the restaurant that Morgan McKay’s parents opened in 1996, and which she and her sister bought back about four years ago.
McKay began working at Oblio’s at age ten, when there were no other neighborhood pizza places. She recalls the neighborhood between Kearney and Krameria Streets and says, “It was much rougher then; they [Oblio’s/her parents] were actually one of the first businesses to go in the whole strip, so they were one of the first ones to start cleaning up the area.”
When her parents divorced, they sold the business; even though McKay continued to work at Oblio’s, the sale was “devastating” for her and her sister. “We had fun there and loved it…it was our family restaurant and we thought it was going to be ours…it was our dream, getting it back,” she says.
Since buying back the business with her sister, Oblio’s has again become her family’s labor of love. “I cook in the kitchen but I also do a little bit of everything based on where I need to be. My mother does most of the behind-the-scenes paperwork, and she also delivers pizza…and she usually babysits my kids when I’m at work!”
Denver’s strong economy has made it difficult to find and retain good workers; McKay estimates that she’s had to triple her payroll to keep staff and “well, just to be fair with the cost of living.”
To keep the restaurant open seven days a week, McKay, who is a Park Hill parent of two, launched “character nights” (Mondays) and “kids nights” with balloon animal artist and face painter (Tuesdays) to bring families together on the slower evenings many small restaurants are closed. When they hosted their first princess event, she says, “There were like 80 people lined up outside!” She quickly made the character nights reservation-based to accommodate everyone who wanted face time with a princess or other character.
McKay admits that running a small family restaurant is challenging. “Fighting with everything you have for something that’s so important to you…it’s just so hard because there’s not many of us truly family-owned and family-run businesses.”
As a longtime family business in the community, McKay feels an obligation to give back. Oblio’s gave free meals to teachers during the strike and to government workers during the furlough in 2019. “From a business perspective, it may not be a good move, but we want to be true to ourselves. We love helping with as much as we can,” McKay says.
Oblio’s is located at 6115 E 22nd Ave. and open 7 days a week from 5-9pm. For more information or to register for events, visit obliospizza.com, or call 303-321-1511 for info.
Given the COVID-19 crisis, Oblio’s has expanded delivery to include all of Stapleton, Lowry, Hilltop, Mayfair, City Park and Congress Park.