Westland pizza shop owner, pillar of community retires after 45 years

‘Bill took care of you when you needed to be taken care of’

WESTLAND, Mich. – A long-time Westland pizza shop owner says it’s time to pass the torch. After 45 years behind the counter, Vasil “Bill” Vangoff is ready to hang up his apron.

Through the decades, Vangoff made a real impact on his community through Nautilus Pizza & Subs on Cherry Hill Road but now he says it’s time to move on and spend time with the family. He sold the shop to a new owner.

News of Vangoff’s retirement stirs mixed emotions for customers.

“We’re going to miss Bill. He was a big part (of the community), took care of all the neighborhood kids, gave them jobs,” says Don Souba.

Shelley Turner grew up in the same neighborhood as Vangoff and says she’s gone to his pizza shop all her life, “He’s really been a pillar and a dad to everyone who’s worked for him.”

There’s no question about it, Nautilus is a Westland gem. The food is good, but the man behind the counter gets people coming back time and time again.

“I mean if you’ve got 10 bucks in your pocket you could feed the whole family,” says Souba. “Bill took care of you when you needed to be taken care of.”

For Vangoff, owning a pizza shop was never part of the plan.

“I was a music major in college and graduated from Wayne State. And there weren’t any teaching jobs when I got out so I had experience at my uncle’s Little Caesars and got a start there,” Vangoff says.

He signed the papers and bought Nautilus at just 24 years old on May 25, 1977. It’s a day he says he will not forget

For more than 45 years, instead of teaching music, he’s shown generations what it means to build a life you love.

“I was trying to teach them that it was more than just pizza,” says Vangoff. “You know, teach them a little bit about life, about dealing with people.”

He says it’s not the pizza or subs he will miss the most, but the people who have become family.

“Without the customers and the employees. I would have never been able to do it. So it was a joint effort. I thank them all,” Vangoff says.

Vangoff’s last day is New Year’s Eve. Nautilus will close for a few days and reopen under a new owner on Jan. 4, 2023.

About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.