Conans Pizza will close its founding 29th and Guadalupe Street location on July 22, three days after its 42nd anniversary.
The quirky Austin pizza joint is named after fictional hero Conan The Barbarian, but that wasn’t without a fight. In 1985, Conans was sued for copyright infringement by Conan Properties Inc., which owns the rights to the character. But one piece of evidence helped Conans keep its name.
“L. Sprague deCamp, who at the time was involved with the ownership of the rights, had taken a picture with us outside the restaurant before we opened,” said Chris Strader, who handles communications at Conans. “That was the single piece of evidence that allowed us to not award any financial damages, and keep the name.”
Conans' very first location is bursting with stories like this, from its interwovenness with the 1980s Austin music scene captured in collages of concert posters, to the tire marks still on the floor from when a car rammed directly into the shop.
“It’s sad, we’ve had a few (locations) come and go throughout the days, but this one always seemed to last,” said Carlie Strader, an employee at Conans. “There’s so many pizza restaurants in this area, our sales just aren’t where they used to be, so it’s hard to justify staying open.”
Chris and Carlie’s dad Jerry Strader opened Conans with co-founder Scott Leist in 1976. The siblings said they have worked in the family business all their lives and held just about every position in the company.
Chris said Conans was the first to serve up a deep pan, Chicago-style pizza in Austin, drawing lines of people outside the store on the opening day.
“Nobody had ever tasted anything like it,” Chris said. “It was brand new in the town.”
Over the years, the store stood out for its specialty pizzas such as “The Savage” — an everything pie with meats and veggies — and its close proximity to music venues such as Rome Inn and Antone’s.
Conans opened 12 restaurants total in its history, including its “golden store” on the Drag, where Kerbey Lane is currently located. This spot, which shut down in the late '90s, had a big video arcade and a more direct connection to campus, Chris said.
Marina Flores visited Conan’s for the first time 39 years ago on her second date with her now-husband and said it has been a mainstay in her family ever since.
“Change is inevitable, but I think it’s hard (that it’s closing), because there’s so many people that have built a community around Conans,” said Flores. “It’s just sad.”
Chemistry senior Alina Deng said she wandered into Conans one day when looking for a new campus eatery to try, and was surprised by the Conan the Barbarian-themed decorations that line the restaurant’s tables and walls. Despite being a bit confused by the character, Deng said she remembers liking her deep dish-style pizza.
“I’m not super surprised that they’re closing, because of the location a lot of students just didn’t know there was a pizza place further down on Guad, but it was very eclectic,” Deng said. “I think a part of me will be sad to see it go.”
Conans Pizza’s two remaining stores in North and South Austin will stay open.