This is a two-part story examining how Vermillion’s downtown businesses prep for the madness of Dakota Days. To read how Carey’s, Main Street Pub, Old Lumber Company and Charcoal Lounge handle “a 72-hour party,” click HERE.
R-Pizza’s freezer/kitchen/storage room is stocked with 400 pounds of cheese balls, 400 pounds of pizza cheese and 30 gallons of pizza sauce. It’s all in preparation for Dakota Days.
R-Pizza employees, like many other downtown restaurants workers, give up their homecoming celebrations to provide the fastest, and cheesiest, service possible.
R-Pizza sees four times the amount of customers over D-Days
“The amount of cheese ball is the most surprising one, even I was like ‘what was that number?’” King said. “On
On a regular night, R-Pizza sees its first crowd of the night around “Char-thirty,” or 1 a.m., King said. Over D-Days, however, it is a constant rush.
“It starts after the game and it doesn’t stop until everyone goes home,” King said.
D-days brings alumni of all ages back to town and back downtown. Monica Iverson, co-owner of Cafe Brule and Dakota Brickhouse and USD alumna, said she enjoys seeing past graduates come back and celebrate like “true Coyotes.”
“(Alumni) are all always downtown with everybody else, celebrating,” Iverson said. “They are really proud to support USD and the teams and they just get really excited about it, I mean just, ‘go Yotes.’”
Iverson and her business partner Jim Walters, said they try to give every employee time off to celebrate.
“Everyone else is going to be partying D-Days, except us and our employees, but we try not to make them work on Friday, Saturday and Sunday because we want them to enjoy the week too,” Iverson said.
Even though they try to schedule their employees only a few hours during the weekend, Iverson said they still have issues with workers not showing up or not showing up in the right mindset.
“We have definitely have noticed a couple of employees that come in drunk or don’t come in at all because they’re drunk,” Iverson said. “I’m going to guess that every place in town can sympathize with that. Every year there are one or two that just don’t show up for some odd reason.”
Employee cooperation over D-Days is crucial because of the sheer number of people at the restaurants Walters said. Brickhouse, when the patio is open and full, seats 200 hundred people.
“If everybody comes in at once and you are number 200 in line to get your food, you’re not going to be very happy,” Walter said. “We try to appreciate our staff all the time but especially over D-Days.”
With only eight employees, R-Pizza requires all employees to be on-site Friday through Sunday. King said they are understanding with schedules most of the time, but D-Days is critical and not up for debate.
“It’s basically all hands on deck, everyone works all weekend and we have old employees come back just to help.” King said. “It’s mandatory. I’ve fired people for not showing up on D-days.”
Although working over homecoming isn’t always ideal, Faith Acosta, Silk Road employee, said the excitement of others makes it more bearable.
“People get excited for D-days and everyone is happy and having fun. It makes it more fun to work,” Acosta said.
Restaurants and the Vermillion economy count on critical weekends like D-Days to keep them ‘in the black’ into the late weeks of summer, King said.
“We definitely look forward to D-Days. It doesn’t necessarily carry us over till summer, but during the middle of the summer we will just say, ‘we just have to make it to D-Days,’” King said.
Last winter’s extremely cold weather was stressful for many local businesses, Walter said.
“You still have to make hay while the sun shines,” Walters said. “Last year we had so much cold … it really affected us negatively, but that’s when you have to try and build your nesting so you make it through those times.”
Brickhouse will be opening their doors early on Saturday to serve a limited breakfast menu equipped with 10 kegs of beer to start off the game day.
Interacting with the USD community and offering their support only helps their businesses in the long run, Iverson said.
“Over the summer, without students around, it makes it challenging. You’ve got to be able to focus your energy, labor and the inventory on the busy weekends,” Iverson said. “That’s when you’re going to have the people to make money.”
Restaurants are the heart of downtown Vermillion, and that’s why people come back, Acosta said.
“It definitely provides comfort. The town might change, the school might get bigger, but Silk Road’s menu is always the same,” Acosta said. “That’s why people always say … ‘I have to stop by my favorite restaurants before I leave.’”