A family affair: Brick House Pizza

Jenny and Nick O'Reilly didn't start out planning to own a restaurant, but now they believe they have one they can grow with for many years to come. Nick, 33, was working for the state in human resources. Jenny, 31, was a sign language interprete...

Jenny and Nick O'Reilly didn't start out planning to own a restaurant, but now they believe they have one they can grow with for many years to come.

Nick, 33, was working for the state in human resources. Jenny, 31, was a sign language interpreter.

The two met in high school. Their families have been connected for decades as their parents, and going back farther, their grandparents were best friends. When they married nearly a decade ago, the wedding was truly a family party.

Now the parents of two young daughters of their own with another child on the way, they didn't see themselves owning a restaurant - at first.

They both had customer service backgrounds and family restaurant experience. Jenny's father, Bob Sullivan owns Wendy's restaurants. As the O'Reillys looked for business opportunities they could call their own, they considered rental property or something they could own and build upon.


Then they heard Northwest Pizza and Boardwalk Bread and Bagel was for sale. The O'Reillys thought, why not? They bought the restaurant in July of 2013. "It's been more fast paced than we thought it would be," Nick said.

"It's definitely challenging, but it's never boring," Jenny said. "It's fun."

They said they enjoy working together. Their personalities complement each other's skills. Nick's more reserved and likes working the pizza kitchen. Jenny is more outgoing, personable and is out front with customers.

For the first six months the two hardly saw each other as they worked split shifts in order to care for their young children, Alayna, 4, and Nora, 2, and be hands-on at their new venture.

Step-by-step they worked to bring in the original recipes they remembered and put their own stamp on the menu.

About five months after opening, they changed the name to Brick House Pizza Bread and Bagel. Half joking, Nick suggested re-painting the exterior to look like a brick building and then naming it Brick House Pizza. They were looking for something catchy. It fit. Changing the name and exterior appearance helped them rebrand the restaurant as their own.

"Our sales have actually picked up more than we expected right away," Jenny said.

On the inside, they've made upgrades throughout their first year. From new paint to recently installing new countertops and upgrading kitchen equipment.


Earth tones are replacing the ubiquitous green hues. A wall mirror provides the illusion of additional space, making the dining room appear much larger.

When Jenny found snapshots online to create her vision for a pizzeria restaurant, local artist Sue Knudsen painted the scenes on canvas. The artwork was recently installed in the dining room. The paintings - Knudsen's first commercial work - have been so popular, the artist created business cards to keep up with the interest generated from the work.

Flat-screen TVs let morning customers catch up on the latest news and give guests a way to stay connected to their favorite sports at night.

A fireplace and soft couches created a seating area on the bagel side providing an alternative to the tables and chairs.

Former owners Tom and Beth Perttula envisioned two shops, a pizza restaurant on one side and a bagel shop on the other. On one side, a sit-down pizza restaurant once dominated by famed pictures of Royal Canadian Royal Mounted Police. On the other side, a coffee and bagel shop.

The decor changed significantly. But the dual-purpose restaurant still has appeal.

"That's what we are a little bit sticking with but trying to tie it all together and modernize it," Nick said.

"We're making it our own," Jenny said.


They mix, make and bake their own bagels daily. They also make 17 different cream cheeses on site, such as apple cinnamon, garlic Parmesan, bacon cheddar salsa, vanilla pecan and veggie lite. A children's menu is rolling out this fall with personalized pizzas along with other kid-tested favorites like mac and cheese and peanut butter and jelly.

"Growing up we came here all the time," Jenny said. "If there were birthday parties, this is where we went."

The O'Reillys are upgrading their computer system for sales. Gone will be the paper tickets as orders will be displayed on a screen in the kitchen. It will allow them to offer swipeable gift cards and opens the door to future online ordering.

"It's nice to see the changes," said manager Deb Martz. "I have great people to work for."

Regulars include book club members and coffee groups, along with those in for meetings.

"And making it family oriented is kind of our thing," Jenny said. "We want to make it family and inviting. We are very into our families. We want everyone to enjoy it while they are here."

The family connections go beyond visits and well-wishes. The O'Reillys included their extended family in the business. Nick's dad comes in before dawn to make bagels and handles deliveries at noon. The O'Reillys said they have a great staff from family to college students.

"It's like our own little family when we are here," Jenny said. "We're blessed.


"... I'm looking forward to what will come."

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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