New Chuck E. Cheese offers fun and freshness

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — Long regarded as an arcade that just so happens to sell pizzas, Chuck E. Cheese wants its pies to finally get their due.

Chuck E. Cheese’s newest Winchester location, off Pleasant Valley Road next to the T.G.I. Friday’s, is in the midst of its soft opening week and is scheduled to hold its grand opening on Monday. General Manager Mike Turpel said his store is using the week as practice time for new employees.

But what seems to excite him most of all are the pizzas his store is cooking up as well as the word “fresh” — which he must have used at least 30 separate times in a conversation at his store on Tuesday.

“I always get a kick when I see Papa John’s commercials,” Turpel said. “We have fresh ingredients, we cut everything and we have fresh produce delivered everyday. We cut everything by hand and we mix our own dough. We are a full-fledged pizza place.”

Turpel, who has worked for Chuck E. Cheese since 1992 at its Gaithersburg, Md., and Hagerstown, Md., locations, said that for years, people thought they were using frozen pizzas.

“They don’t know,” he said. “They think we’re just going to Martin’s and buying bags of chopped-up mushrooms.”

Although, as he explained Tuesday, every ingredient that graces a pizza plate is fresh. Mozzarella cheese arrives in large rectangular blocks from Coastal Sunbelt, the store’s produce company. Each day, the cheese — “not part skim or imitation,” he said — is shredded with the new kitchen’s large cheese grater.

Coastal Sunbelt also delivers whole green peppers, mushrooms and onions from its Savage, Md., facility. These toppings are then sliced each morning for the day’s pizzas.

The pizza dough is mixed 100 pounds at a time, is cut and then rests for about 12 hours.

“Our pizza will blow anybody else’s pizza away,” he said.

The Chuck E. Cheese manager said the store, at 50 employees, will be constantly hiring to fit availability changes.

“I have cheerleaders and football players here,” he said. “They have practice after school, so I have to hire and fill those positions.”

He said they look for potential employees with a great smile and hospitality.

The store’s entertainment is equally as fresh. Many of the arcade games are actually adapted from games downloaded from cell phone app stores. A Fruit Ninja game and a game based on Doodle Jump are two of the arcade games at Chuck E. Cheese.

Who knows? Maybe it’s only a matter of time before Chuck E.’s smiling mug is beaming down on an addicting Candy Crush arcade game.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com