Darrel and Becky Miller, owners of Wild River Pizza, received a heart-warming jolt when they reached the back page of the first section of the Nov. 27 issue of the Curry Coastal Pilot last Saturday.
Becky, left, and Darrel, right, operate Wild River Pizza along with daughter Kelsie, and grandchildren Braxton and Baylie. The Pilot/Marge Woodfin
The page was filled with loving tributes and joyful greetings, all because they have been serving pizza to the Brookings-Harbor community and environs for 30 years. That’s a lot of pizza.
It’s obvious that everybody loves their pizza, but that isn’t the whole story. All of those published pats-on-the-back included loving tribute to the friendship and warmth served with the pizza over the last three decades.Darrel became an owner-manager of the former Pizza Deli shortly after graduation from high school, on Nov. 28, 1980, the day after Thanksgiving, and the business became his life.
Within six years, Becky Batten, one of the employees at the time Darrel began his entrepreneurship, became his wife. “I bought her with the business,” he said, smiling.
The two of them ran the place together, while literally raising three children — Kelsie, Cody and Kara — in the pizza parlor.
“We carried them in packs on our backs while we served pizza,” Becky said.
Today, Kelsie’s young children, 3-year-old Baylie, and Braxton, who’s 1, are also a part of Wild Rivers Pizza.
“Three generations. It’s so neat,” Becky said.
The pizza connection began with Darrel’s parents, Jerry and Bertha Miller, who were good friends with the Taylors of Taylor Sausage fame.
Jerry was working as a meat cutter for Taylor Sausage in 1970 when he discovered a sandwich shop for sale in Cave Junction.
“Mom and Dad bought the sandwich shop building as a retail outlet for Taylor sausage,” Darrel explained.
However, five years later, his parents decided pizza might be a better business and built the original Pizza Deli in Cave Junction.
In 1980, they discovered that Our Place Pizza in Brookings was for sale and thought it would be another good place to offer their prized pizza.
They may also have thought it could be a good way to keep Darrel off the streets and out of mischief. If so, they were right. The pizza business has been keeping Darrel far too busy to get into much mischief.
“We’ve been blessed with the people in this community,” Darrel said. “It’s been so neat to have the kids working here and seeing them go on with successful lives. It’s great to help people move on, and to see kids who worked here come in with their kids. We’ve been blessed to know people who have survived, succeeded or excelled.”
He added, “I think this community is wonderful, and we love to hear the thoughts and the stories they have to tell. It reminds us how lucky we are to be here.”
Becky said, “It’s God’s blessing, that’s what it is.”
The title on that printed page of appreciation for Wild River Pizza and the Miller family is right on target, “30 Years of Family, Friends, Food and Fun.”
Both Becky and Darrel laughed as they noted how appropriate the ring tone on his cell phone is. It’s Tim McGraw’s “The Next 30 Years.”