Passing the Torch at Garbo's Pizzeria

For decades, Pam Babcock nurtured and grew Garbo’s Pizzeria, hoping to someday find the person who would carry it forward and love it the way she did. Last year, her daughter Laine Scholz answered that call.

By Jennifer Johnmeyer

Mar 2024

Garbo’s Pizzeria owners.
Photo by Tessa CooperOver their years as owners of Garbo’s Pizzeria it has seen some changes, but their perfect location in Chesterfield has remained the same. Purchase Photo

When Pam Babcock launched Springfield, Missouri favorite Garbo’s Pizzeria in 1990, she met success almost immediately. In fact, she was soon able to open a second location, expanding from the original building on Scenic to Glenstone before learning in 1994 of a new area being developed: Chesterfield Village.

“We put all our eggs in one basket and closed the other two locations,” Babcock says. “We had the first outside dining in Springfield in Chesterfield, upstairs on the balcony. We added liquor, so we had a full bar. We also had music in those days. It was wonderful.”

Those hours took a toll, however, particularly on quality time with her daughter, Laine Scholz.

“When you’re in this business, it’s very challenging,” Babcock says. “Especially being a woman, and a mom. But Laine had a little cubby under the front desk. She’d come out and ask if she could help, and I would put her to work cutting mushrooms. She’d cut three and head back to her cubby.”

When she got older, Scholz worked for Garbo’s  Pizzeria in a more official capacity by waiting tables, a job she kept through college before leaving home and relocating first to St. Louis, then Columbia, Missouri.

Back in Springfield, Babcock spent six years exploring additional expansions (with locations on National and Southern Hills) before deciding once more to put all of her eggs in the Chesterfield Village basket.

By that point, Scholz and her husband had started their own family. In 2010, Scholz decided she was interested in returning to the family business.

“We had been open over 20 years at that point, and were a little old school,” she says. “We needed some structure, so I worked on that. I helped turn some things around that needed work.”

“And then she left again,” Babcock says.

“I was a little hesitant to totally commit myself to this,” Scholz says. “I was pregnant with my third child, and thought, is this really for me?”

Scholz elected to become a silent partner, moving on to the nonprofit sector. Babcock had begun to slow down at this point, but was hesitant to retire.

“It was so great when she came back again and said, ‘I want to do this. I want to be part of the legacy,’” Babcock says.

After some time away, Scholz did become a part of that legacy. In 2023, she returned to Garbo’s for good. Last December, the transition was completed, with Scholz taking ownership of the business (though Babcock teases that she’s still her daughter’s landlord).

When speaking about changes she is implementing in her tenure, Scholz is quick to point out that there are many things that already work at Garbo’s, so there isn’t much she would add. Three things that she is focusing on are menu expansion, increased marketing and community partnerships.

Her grandmother taught her to bake at a young age, so Scholz decided to bake one of her cakes to see if anyone would buy it. The idea was met with such enthusiasm that she has continued to offer not only her specialty layer cakes, but also cheesecake and tiramisu. (Babcock boasts that her daughter even makes her own ladyfingers.)

Garbo’s is also developing limited menu and specialty pizza options, as well as a mocktail menu. “We’re really a family business, and it’s fun for kids to have their own fancy drink,” Scholz says.

Scholz’s focus on local partnerships has led to having both Spring Branch Kombucha and local brewery selections in-house.

Garbo’s also offers frozen pizzas to take home, as well as its famous bottled dressing. The bottles are recycled, and Babcock and Scholz emphasize that while sustainability is hard in the restaurant business, it’s important to them.

Babcock says her time has been a beautiful journey, but she’s ready for her next chapter. “I know she’s identical to me in the business world, and I know she will pick up and run with what I have started,” she says. “I have no ifs, ands or buts about whether or not she will be successful. She will.”

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