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Mom-and-pop eatery

Pace’s drive-in strives to maintain identity with quality products

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BOUNTIFUL — In an era of big-box retailers, fast-food chains and increasingly stiff competition, Todd Pace strives to maintain the identity of his mom-and-pop business.

Pace is the owner of Pace's Dairy Ann in Bountiful. He has been running it for the past 15 years. Although the business is doing well, he says activity has decreased over the years.

"It's not nearly as busy as it used to be," he said. "We used to do so much business we'd have orders lined up for three hours straight every day. It's just not that way now."

With an influx of fast-food restaurants, area high schools moving to one lunch period and Highway 89, where the business is located, becoming a side road instead of a main thoroughfare, Pace says it has been difficult to compete.

"When the competition comes in I call it the Wal-Mart syndrome. It's hard to be an independent or a mom-and-pop business in anything," he said. "There used to be mom-and-pop grocery stores, butcher stores, etc., and now all that's changed and they're just gone.... I like the old stuff, the old way, (but) it's not the easiest."

Pace's Dairy Ann was started in 1953 as Pace's Dairy Queen at 207 S. Main. However as franchise fees increased, Pace's grandparents, Gordon and Elizabeth Ann Pace, decided to leave Dairy Queen behind and changed to Pace's Dairy Ann, after Elizabeth Pace. They also changed locations in 1957 to the current location, 1160 S. 500 West.

Ralph and Carolyn Pace ran the business for years, purchasing it from Gordon and Elizabeth in 1976. Their son, Todd Pace, took the reins in 1991 and ran it for four years before his father died in 1995, and he has been in charge ever since. Pace strives to distinguish his business by making the highest quality products available for his customers. The quality of the food hasn't wavered in all the years Pace's has been open, he said.

"If you come in here and order a meal, it will be the same thing you were going to get 40 years ago as far as product and quality. You can't duplicate that anywhere else," he said. "My philosophy is if something isn't broke, don't fix it. It's not always the easy way. It's getting harder and harder to compete with the big boys."

Every little detail matters from the brand of mayonnaise, to the type of ice cream mix to the temperature the ice cream machine is set on. Pace said they make their own sauces and slush and all their food is fresh, including onion rings made daily.

"We have fresh ground beef delivered three times a week," he said. "We don't scrimp on the ingredients or flavoring at all and that makes a big difference. Every little thing adds."

Some of the most popular items at Pace's Dairy Ann include country boys with cheese, cheese double burger, onion rings and rainbows, a slush with ice cream in it. They are also well-known for their Coke.

"We call our Coke Mormon coffee, because it's so strong," Pace said. "Our syrup is turned up all the way as strong as you can get it. We're known for our Coke."

Shawn Harvey of North Salt Lake, a regular customer at Pace's Dairy Ann, agrees.

"They have really good Coke," she said. "They turn up the syrup really high, so it's really sweet. It's good ice, too — crushed ice. It's a mom-and-pop place that's not like any other place."

Pace said the majority of his customers are regulars, like Harvey, or are above the age of 30. Many of the old timers who support the business are unable to do so anymore or have died.

"We used to get a lot of high school kids, but (that changed) when they went to one lunch period," he said. "We can't feed 1,200 kids in 30 minutes, so now they don't come."

Harvey said she has been coming to Pace's for all 25 years she's lived in North Salt Lake. She has a group of friends who used to live in Bountiful and have moved to Taylorsville and West Jordan who regularly come in to get Astro bars, another of Pace's staple items.

"I like being a regular. They know who you are and what you want," she said.

Pace said reputation is vital to the success of his business. The public is unforgiving when it comes to mistakes. Even if someone has been coming to the restaurant for years and years, if they get something bad they will forgive only once.

Along with reputation, perception is also highly important and is affected so easily.

"It's very difficult to be an independent," he said. "We take pride in what we do. We try to do the best we can. It's difficult to compete with people's perceptions of what's good and what's not good."

Pace's Dairy Ann hours of operation are from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and it's closed on Sunday.

Pace hopes to maintain a nostalgic, homegrown feeling of the restaurant.

"It's a family establishment, family owned and run for 50 years," he said. "We don't skimp and we don't do what's popular.... We do it right or not at all."

The two Pace's Drive Ins in north Davis County — at 344 N. Main, Layton, and 1080 W. 300 North, Clearfield, are not affiliated with the Bountiful Pace's Dairy Ann.

E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com