Editor's note: Muncie Origins is a Ball State Daily News series profiling various businesses that originated in Muncie.
At Amazing Joe's on Wheeling Avenue in Muncie, the unspoken motto is if there's a spot in the parking lot, there's a seat inside.
For more than 10 years, the Muncie and Columbus communities have enjoyed burgers, steaks, pasta and more, one plate at a time.
Before Amazing Joe’s became the restaurant it is today, three “average joes” came together in the early 2000s with plans to turn their own restaurant dreams into reality.
“It started with basically three guys who have worked in the [restaurant] industry before,” said Chad Massoth, the managing partner of Amazing Joe’s. “We just decided to save up some money and kind of get our masters in how to grow a restaurant. We did that for a few years, then we branched out and moved back [to Muncie] to open Amazing Joe's.”
The three original business partners decided Muncie was the best place for their original restaurant because they all have Muncie connections — Mike Robinson is originally from the area, and Massoth and Nick Grams both studied at Ball State. When they got the chance to expand, Columbus, Indiana was their next choice because Grams lives in the area.
Massoth said one goal for the group when opening Amazing Joe’s in Muncie was to find a building they could renovate to include “some of the past and older architecture” within their restaurant.
Additionally, customers who regularly visit the restaurant also helped in its creation from the beginning.
“[The restaurants’] building has been here for a long time, maybe over a hundred years," Massoth said. “It’s been remodeled. Parts of it have been a gas station, a speakeasy. It’s really fun listening to people’s [stories]. ‘Oh I remember when this was a... I used to ride my bike, and get popsicles here in the 40s.’ It’s pretty neat.”
Aside from establishing strong relationships with customers, the owners of Amazing Joe’s have also tried to build a family-like atmosphere for employees. Every year, new Ball State students join the team, but some staff have been there all 10 years.
“I’ve been working there for four years; it’s a lot of fun,” said Audrey Woodins, a server and Ball State student. “It’s all college students, and it sounds clichè, but it’s like one big family.”
While working, the staff’s philosophy focuses on the balance between the quality of corporate restaurants and the personality of independent or local restaurants.
One way they achieve this balance is by creating many of their dishes in house, meaning meals are prepared when ordered.
“The menu is from the highest quality beef we could buy,” Massoth said. “It comes from Chicago, and we treat it right. It’s fresh, never frozen. We hand batter our chicken and fish. We don’t just put stuff in the deep fryer, and say, ‘Hey that’s it.’ There's a lot of care in the food that has kept people coming back.”
Since the Muncie and Columbus communities have been so supportive of the business, Massoth said they have the funds to expand again to Indianapolis.
“We build [each business] slow,” Massoth said. “We typically do everything in cash. We don’t try to overload or overleveraged ourselves. We all have kids that are going to school, and now Mike’s two sons work here as managers. It’s all been a really cool thing as it’s developed.”
Because the Muncie community has helped make Amazing Joe’s successful, Massoth said they view the relationship as a partnership which they contribute to by serving veterans free meals on Veterans Day and helping with the kick-off lunch at Hearts and Hands United.
“Muncie means a lot,” Massoth said. “We try to treat it like a partnership by doing our part with giving back. The community has responded, and they do a great job. They mean the world to us because without the guests, we wouldn't be here.”