New pizzeria swims its way onto Water Street

Guppy’s Pizza replaces former Jim’s Pizza, set to open soon

Story by Courtney Kueppers, Managing Editor

Joel Gupton’s interest in saucy, cheesy treats started when he was a kid. Since then he has worked in three different pizza shops throughout Wisconsin.

However, owning his own shop is a first for Gupton and his wife, Tanya, who are busy preparing Guppy’s Pizza, 421 Water St., to open.

“I always wanted to run a pizza shop,” Joel Gupton said. “Water Street is an exciting place. The energy is vibrant here.”

Guppy’s, named after a family nickname, will be serving up pies at the former site of Jim’s Pizza. Joel Gupton was an employee at Jim’s Pizza and the former Jim and Jeff’s Pizza for five years.

The business owners, of Eau Claire, are hopeful to open the shop’s doors within a week. The hold-up is due to lack of employees, which they are in the process of hiring. The Guptons hope to have a team of 15 workers and anticipate most of their employees to be college students.

For starters, fans of Jim’s Pizza are in luck. The menu will remain largely the same at Guppy’s as its predecessor. However, once they have their feet beneath them, the first-time small business owners hope to experiment to bring pizza lovers a variety of pies.

Tanya Gupton said they expect their audience to primarily be college kids. The Guptons acknowledged the notorious reputation Water Street has earned itself, however they look forward to working with the student population.

“We’re not too worried about it,” Joel Gupton said of the rowdy atmosphere on Water Street.

“College kids are a huge help because they provide feedback,” Tanya Gupton added.

Jesse Martinez, UW-Eau Claire senior, said he is bummed Jim’s Pizza is no longer around but he is open to trying its successor.

“I would give it a shot,” Martinez said of Guppy’s Pizza. “I would want it to be as similar as possible to Jim’s. It was my favorite pizza place close to campus. I like supporting local.”

The couple, who have two young kids and one more on the way, started leasing the property this summer and have been busy cleaning since. A bright blue wall now welcomes customers, which coordinates with the blue fish on Guppy’s logo, designed by UW-Eau Claire alumni Corey Huttenburg.

Before making the decision to follow Joel’s dreams of being front man at a pizza palace, the couple had plans to open a daycare and Tanya Gupton was working in healthcare and going to school.

However, when this opportunity presented itself they happily jumped on it.

The pizzeria will offer more than pizza. The menu will include subs, salads and even pizza rolls.

The owners plan to run some specials, but Jim’s Pizza’s famous buy one get one free every day of the week is now a thing of the past, Joel Gupton said, noting the special may have been part of the former business’ demise.

Martinez noted he liked Jim’s Pizza’s deals, especially when hosting football parties, but he is still excited to support the new local eatery.