TH EXCLUSIVE: ‘Our family legacy’: Town Clock Pizza poised to open new location

Location: 7653 Old Highway Road, Centralia, Iowa.

Hours: After the official opening, hours will be from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 12 p.m. to either 5 or 7 p.m. on Sundays (Sunday hours are still being finalized). 

Weekend hours will change in the spring and summer. Updates to hours can be found online. 

Phone: 563-556-1022.

Online: and

CENTRALIA, Iowa — While Town Clock Pizza might have moved into a new space, some aspects haven’t changed.

“This place looks nothing like it used to and nothing like the old place, but the food is still the same,” co-owner Scott Nelson said.

Town Clock Pizza officially will open to the public from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 10, at its new location in Centralia. Scott and his wife, Irene, who co-own the business, also dropped the “Inn” from their eatery’s moniker with their move from Dubuque.

The Nelsons in May announced plans to move Town Clock Pizza to the former home of Junction 21 Restaurant and Bar, which closed May 22.

The Nelsons closed Town Clock Inn’s Dubuque Main Street location not long before announcing the move. The restaurant had been operating in that location since Scott’s grandparents started it in 1970. Scott and Irene have owned the business since 2009.

The new location marks an important moment for the family, which now owns the building instead of renting restaurant space.

“This is our 52nd year in the business in March, actually,” Scott said. “I’m third generation. Our kids are fourth generation. This is our family legacy. Now, we have something to leave behind.”

It’s a legacy Scott said he was nervous the family would lose after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When COVID started, I thought we were done for,” Scott said. “But there was so much support, and that launched us back up to say, ‘We’re not going down.’”

Irene recalled customers giving large tips to support the business after the dining room closed, a gesture that still brings tears to her eyes. The couple also ran a food truck and sold frozen pizzas to keep things running.

The staffing struggles Town Clock was experiencing just before the closure of the Main Street location won’t be a problem at the new space, Irene said. Town Clock Pizza has 10 employees, including the Nelsons.

Customers at the new location order their food and pay at three different cash registers. While employees will run food out to tables, the new system eliminates the need for wait staff.

“That way, if we’re short-staffed, we can still run,” Irene said. “We wanted to concentrate on hiring good cooks.”

Those cooks still will be making the well-known pizza recipe used by Scott’s grandparents. The menu also will include some new options, including sandwiches, soups, wraps and salads.

The Nelsons spent months completely redoing the new restaurant, knocking down two walls that were leaning, installing a new heating and cooling system and putting in a new bar with 12 beers on tap.

“The old bar was in a horseshoe shape,” Scott said. “It was good for a bar, but bad for a restaurant.”

The new bar boasts barstool seating, with the restaurant space filled with tables covered in black-and-white checkered tablecloths. Natural light pours into the restaurant, and customers will be able to enjoy sunsets while eating their meal, the Nelsons said.

Additional seating will be available this spring on the restaurant’s concrete patio, which is still under construction. Scott, who used to work in construction, helped pour the concrete.

“We put some sweat and labor into it,” he said.

Irene said they also plan to start offering brunch this spring, complete with mimosas and “Pizza Marys,” which are Bloody Marys made with Town Clock’s pizza sauce.

The Nelsons said benefits of moving from downtown Dubuque include a large parking lot, marking a change from the metered parking along Main Street in Dubuque. The new kitchen also is four times larger than the old one.

The couple also made sure the restaurant and patio had zero-step entry for better accessibility. The old location had a stairway entrance and an elevator.

“That is really important to people,” Scott said.

The Nelsons began holding soft openings last week in preparation for their official opening. They now look forward to seeing the restaurant in full bustle.

“I’m excited to see people, meet some new people and get our regulars back,” Irene said. “It’ll be nice to get back to some normalcy.”