The keys to success

Posted March 13, 2013 at 8:25 pm

paul at piano.jpg

Many times owning one’s own business is a pipe dream. However, it was not a dream of Paul Konietzko’s.

Konietzko grew up in the area, where he was extremely involved in music. He took piano lessons and played in the school band, and then went on to college where he received multiple music-related degrees.

After college, he taught music for a year before joining the Air Force. After 20 years of service, Paul returned to the area, where he began working as a cook at Lucky’s in Canton, S.D., and spent his Sundays playing the organ in two local churches.

“I play at two churches; I was a keyboard player with the military. So music has been in my life, my entire life,” Konietzko said.

During his time at Lucky’s, Konietzko was frequently urged to start his own restaurant because of his talent for cooking. However, he just as frequently dismissed the idea.

“I’ve seen how many hours these people put in, and thought ‘are you crazy’,” Konietzko said.

However, as crazy as the idea seemed, Konietzko came around to it. He decided to take the opportunity when it arose and finally opened Paul’s Place in November of last year.

At that time, a relative asked him if owning his own business had always been on his “bucket list,” to which he replied, “As a matter of fact, no.”

Regardless, as unlikely as it had been for Konietzko to open his own business, it afforded him the opportunity to combine his passion for playing the piano and his culinary skills. His vision materialized and, in what formerly was a gas station and Lucky’s Sports bar on the west edge of Canton, is now a piano bar and restaurant.

“There’s nothing in the area that’s like it,” Konietzko said. He later added, “Where else can you have food and a bar and a piano?”

While the building’s exterior looks almost unchanged, the inside has seen a face lift.

“The footprint is the same from when it was Lucky’s, but I have completely redecorated,” Konietzko said.

He wanted to remove the sports bar feel and instead create a family friendly atmosphere. Sticking with the piano and music theme, a piano sits near the entrance, greeting customers, while across the room, a separating wall is painted to look like piano keys. The spacious dining area is filled with pictures and paintings of instruments. There are little signatures and detailing, even down to the hamburger buns which are branded with musical notes.

The musical notes on the hamburger buns were just one of the many creative marks Konietzko’s chefs have come up with. He said his chefs have full rein when it comes to the kitchen, be it creating new sauces or inventing entirely new dishes.

“Letting them have creativity in the kitchen has been absolutely wonderful,” he said. “We have come up with some wonderful dishes that started out as a special to where the demand has been so strong that guests have said, ‘You need to put this on the menu.‘”

One such item has been the Buffalo Mozzarella Pasta with a choice of chicken or shrimp. There is also the popular Whiskey Pepper Steak. He highlighted the different sauces and the variety of entrees on the menu.

Konietzko emphasized that it’s more than just pasta or a salad bar, adding that their specialties are steaks and ribs and noting that Paul’s Place only uses fresh, never frozen, hamburger.

“My sisters said, ‘You have to have hand-formed hamburgers; you can’t have frozen hamburgers’.” Paul said. He added that, after figuring the cost, it wasn’t much more expensive to buy ground beef, which he purchases along with all of the meat, from the Canton Locker.

While he stressed that it’s a family-friendly restaurant, there is also a bar so guests will be able enjoy a cocktail or beer with dinner. The establishment also houses a casino with swinging doors separating it from the restaurant and an outside private entrance.

Additionally, the other side of the building, the old gas station part, is used as a banquet room that can hold 50-60 people. Depending on the size of the group, people can order off of the menu, or for larger groups, do a buffet style.

Konietzko said that while they haven’t had a lot of large group catering thus far, the ones they have done went extremely well.

In a way, “extremely well” sums how Paul’s Place has gone so far. While Konietzko may have been reluctant to start his business, he has found, that in spite of the hard work, innumerable hours, risk and stress, he absolutely loves it.

He said, “I am putting in even more hours than I ever imagined and loving it.”