What is your pizza history? How did you end up where you are?

Where did you come from in pizza? Most of the active TTers are owners. How did you end up where you are? How long have you been doing it and what did you do before in pizza?

I am 54 years old. I own one pizza store in a ski resort in Colorado. Here is my “pizza history”:

1978-1979 Knowlton’s on Grand Ave in St Paul, MN Cook, part time during college. Counter-top conveyor oven. First time I ever saw shrimp on a pizza.

1979 -1981 Domino’s Pizza, Mpls/St Paul area. Driver, cook, manager trainee, substitute manager (vacations). Started in store 1902, also worked in 1903, 1907 & 1909 a lot and once in a while in some others. Had raw sausage back in those days. 3 part order form strips and Chevy Novas for delivery. 6 Bakers Pride deck ovens in the store I started at. Four college campuses in our delivery area.

(1983 College Degree)

(1983-1984 School Teacher, Highschool social science, US history, days)

1983-1984 Green Mill Pizza, St Paul, MN Cook. Deep dish place. Packed almost every night. Four deck ovens. Two for deep dish and two for flat.

1984-1985 Duple Pizza Shack, Berlin Germany. DOA civilian. I think they were thrilled to have someone that had actually made pizza before working there. Dough from a freezer, sauce from a can. Invented my own spice package as the stuff was so bland! Conveyor oven. Probably was a lincoln but I do not remember for sure.

(1985-1986 Other work in Berlin)

(1986-1988 Other work in Mpls, MN)

(1988-1994, Started unrelated business, grew that and sold it, got married, had first kid. Lived near Boulder, CO)

(1994-1999 VP and Senior VP of outdoor brand Marmot. Moved to California, had second kid)

1999 Opened my current pizza business. Purchased equipment in place from a failed PJ’s. Two MM wide belts.

1999 Purchased a second pizza business. Slice business open about 20 weeks a year during the ski season. Rocked it in there. Turn up the stereo! Triple stack of Lincoln impingers.

(2000-2006 went to work as National Sales Manager for another outdoor brand, Patagonia, eventually switched to leasing and new store location opening team)

(2007-present Opened unrelated retail business in our town. Got real estate license and started doing business brokerage and leasing work along with commercial property brokerage.)

2009 sold location of second pizza store after 10 years for enough to walk away from the business. Sold off the equipment.

Current: Still own first pizza store, retail business and active in brokerage.

Is this all you have done with your life Bodegahwy? This should be taken as the sarcasm that it is.

Good topic and interesting to know the backgrounds and context of the members here.

I am 39 - going on 95! No kids, no wife, just wonderful team members to keep track of.

1993-1999: 6 Years in Marine Corps reserve (with summers spent at Officer Candidate School and a few other "volunteer USMC assignments)

1996-1998: Studied Mechanical Engineering a couple years.

1994-1999: Worked at Dominos as a driver during college - absolutely loved it, so of course dropped college and went to work full time, driver, assistant manager, manager, ended up supervising multi-store franchises (worked for multiple franchisees).

1999-2001: Opened my own independent store - did well building sales, but spent too much and barrowed too much to get out from under it, so closed it with a vow to come back when I could do this without debt.

2003-2009: Went back to school to get Computer Science degree. I was inspired by the database marketing and software that we used to help our Dominos stores succeed.

2002-2004: Managed Dominos stores for another franchisee who was a relative of the Mueller’s of RPM (VERY large Dominos franchisee’s) notoriety.

2005-2014: Worked numerous contract appointments as Software Consultant. Most recently (4 years) focused mostly on database work and some other stuff that might bore the public at large. Ironically enough one contract assignment was with the Dominos Pizza web team working on next generation online ordering.

2011-2014: Researched, bought equipment, planning, build out, paid for everything, etc. of new store.

2014: Opened new delco, working my @$$ off to build it up at night and still doing software consulting during the day, until the wonderful day when the store can take care of itself and me and fuel it’s own growth.

owner,same location 28 yrs, tripped, stumbled, and fell into the pizza business, 58 yrs young, 1 store lake tahoe, barely graduated h school 74, lived in car for 6 months, worked as a ski lift operator 2 years, totaled my car while impaired, joined Marine Core 4 yrs 1976-1980, worked another year as a lift operator, liked big air while skiing tried to fly,was a ski bum for the next 6 years fighting ( not very hard) a lifelong drug addiction, fell into a little money 15k and had a girl friend with some money as grad present, bought a pizza place only because the price was so low it seemed a good bargain, never made a pizza in my life, put the word out in town (Reno,nevada) needed help to make a pizza,a friends girlfriends brother helped me get started, named it Mofo’s Pizza and Pasta, got married had 2 kids (worked with my son tonight, 27 yrs old) life fell apart due to drugs and lost my house and family, i got mofos and a 70 hr week, was crying and praying after the breakup and screamed Jesussssss, before the s was off my tounge it thundered one of the loudest thunderclaps in my life, been completely drug free 13 years now and start most days riding my mt bike down to the lake to read scripture and pray, life is good, remarried have an 8 yr old daughter, with the help of the think tank i am really studying and learning the pizza biz for the 1st time (slow learner) , last july was 1st time i cleared 100k in a month, october about 22k, huge rollicoaster ride, still trying to improve systems to survive the rush of tourists from san francisco, just yesterday my son and i hooked up a robot coupe cl 50 to slice everything , we love it !!! learned about robot coupe from David (pizza pirate) thank you DAVID !!! I thank everybody here for all the help and camaraderie God Bless ALL of YOU !

Story with a great and inspiring ending John! I have one of those Robot Coupe’s on my wishlist. Semper Fi.

Hey Midnight… when I was Dominos trainee in the 70’s the company used to trot Franchisee Mueller around to meetings to inspire us to become franchisees. I remember seeing him pull his suit out of the glove compartment where it was crammed to put on before his presentation.

@ John M. I know that roller coaster well! Ski towns are a lot of fun aren’t they? Do you know Sandy Evans Hall with the Chamber out there?

Great stories. I am a history nut so love reading how things got to where they are today. I started 58 years ago in the Newark NJ area which was as hot a pizzza scene as NYC. My mother and her family came to NJ from Italy bringing their dough and meat experience with them and via that I was instantly imersed in the pizza/bakery/butcher world. I worked in several pizzerias/bakeries in the NYC area and around the country as a kid but music was my number 1. I could always find dough based jobs when I needed real dough and it paid more than doing outdoor manual labor :slight_smile: I lived/traveled around the world with my one of a kind approach to music-link:
After 20 years of booking my band 200-250/dates a year around the world, owning my own record label, I discovered special needs people while basing my band out of Austin TX. That motivated me to go college and become a special education teacher. I immediately realized the students I worked with were never going to compete in academic based jobs so I put my bakery/pizzeria skills to work and began the first version of The Smiling With Hope Bakery in 1993. It has been a huge challenge to convince the public school system that working/self sustaining businesses can exist and prepare students for a job and hope.

It all has come together here at Newark High School in Newark, OH after 20 years and 3 states. We currently have 5 of my 12 students working in entry level positions with Bon Appetit which is located at Denison University. Schools have always been a love-hate thing for me and the past 5 years the struggle to do my program has gotten way too complicated. With that said, I am now ready to move on to opening my own pizzeria in Reno. I will carry on the mission of training/employing special needs people without the red tape I now deal with. It will be a small shop like I grew up in with only pizza in the NY style baked in a stack of blodgett 1000 ovens that I have on loan with my current gig at the high school. We took in an 11 year old Mexican girl 16 years ago. She and her family walked 1000 miles barefoot to get to america for work. She is now legal and running a busy NY style pizzeria in northern CA. I taught her pizza and she will be joining us in Reno. She is learning disabled and our goal is to sell her the shop for $1. Thus the mission will continue and my wife and I can end our lives knowing we did something decent for humanity. Walter

I have not met Richard (I have met Glen - brother and long time business partner), but he deserves almost as big of a place in the history of Dominos and the delco concept as does Monoghan. He, or folks in his company are credited with so many innovations and he was the embodiment of everything Dominos wanted to sell in terms of Franchisee success. However, your story strikes me funny because it could not be a more opposite approach to the Monoghan style. Monoghan was fanatic about appearance and uniforms and such. I imagine RPM was in Columbus, Ohio those days.

I am wondering if I have the name wrong and it was some other early franchisee we met? I think I remember the guy being from Michigan and that he had sold his 25 stores to the company. I also remember him saying that he used to make a pepperoni pizza and then he would take pepperoni off the pizza until it looked “cheap” to him and he would put one slice back and call it good.

I think it may still be the same person…I know he started working with Dominos in Michigan, but not sure if he was ever a franchisee in Michigan. He developed multiple areas for Dominos, one of his first big ones was in Ohio and I thought Columbus and his most recent was in Louisiana & Mississippi - headquartered in Gulfport, MS.

Graduated high school in 1984 and went to work in the retail field. A few various places. Met my future wife at 1 of them and got married in 1989. She had 3 young kids so I had an instant family. Our first kid came along in 1991 and the second in 1993. Both have just finished off college and now work for us full time. Actually all 5 kids work for us. Along with all their spouses and boy friends also. Talk about a family business.

1st store went up in 1989
2nd in 1991
3rd in 1995
4th in 1996
5th in 1999
6th in 2000

In 2002 we sold the 5th and 6th ( losing fat stacks of cash)
In 2004 we sold the 2nd ( too far away )

Ran 3 for the last 10 years and opened a 4th 2 weeks ago

Stumbled, tripped and fell all along the way and still making mistakes every day. But I get up each morning a do what it takes to make today better than yesterday.

Oct 1998-2002: 12 years old got a job washing dishes at my uncles pizza restaurant, after dishes were done helped doing brainless things like pizza boxes etc.

Sept 2002: went to work for another greek pizza place, that was sooo busy you couldn’t breathe, I remember days of literally shaking it was so busy I don’t even remember how we got through those nights. Got screamed at all the time. I learned fast and quick priorities and efficiency.

Oct 2012: got an opportunity to start a pizza place and first right or refusal to purchase in 2 years

Aug 2014: bought the pizza place with my brother, we work a lot of hours, all the ordering day to day stuff is nothing to us, but this back if house stuff… Taxes- workers comp- state taxes is boring and annoying, I used to pay 4 bills a month- now its I pay 4 bills a day :slight_smile:

@December… I don’t know how many employees you have but you can outsource all the payroll stuff to companies like ADP or Heartland for a pretty reasonable fee. We call in our hours to ADP every other week and they do everything from issuing the checks to filing and paying all taxes and related forms. It costs us about $100 month for the service. Well worth it to me.

We also pay all our food vendor bills by credit card (US and Sysco) which gives us both 30 days terms and no time spent monkeying around with paying and filing those invoices.

Thank you! I do have a payroll service who also is going to do my personal taxes, I’m so new to this(back of house) that I prob make things more difficult then needed.
I know this will sound crazy, but to be honest I really don’t know how much actual profit we’ve made, I mean there is plenty of money in the bank to cover all bills and a great chunk left over- but it’s like a guessing game I have to predict the future.
At the end of the week I’m saying yeah all bills are paid! Then I’m saying oh yeah they’re all due again!

I began working at Dominos Pizza on my 16th birthday. I’m 43 now. Been a shop owner since 2001.

-1987-1989 - Dominos Pizza (Boulder, CO) - Insider & Driver several locations

-1989-1992 - Dominos Pizza (Boulder, CO) - MIT/Assistant Manager several locations

-April 1992 - August 1994 - Dominos Pizza (Boulder, CO) - GM several locations

-August 1994 - August 1995 - Blackjack Pizza (Longmont, CO) - GM

-August 1995 - April 1997 - Blackjack Pizza (Boulder, CO) - Driver & Asst Manager Started taking classes to know what to do to become an owner of a business (secure loans, etc)

-April 1997 - May 2001 - Blackjack Pizza (Boulder, CO) - GM

-May 2001 - Blackjack Pizza (Longmont, CO) - Owner/Operator - store doing 12,000 week (Found PMQ Think Tank - met a bunch of newbies who are still on the tt today.)

-July 2004 - Bought 2nd Blackjack Pizza location (Boulder, CO) - Store doing 23,000 week

-November 2004 - Bought independent pizzeria (Angelo’s Pizza & Subs) in NE suburb of Boulder, CO known as Gunbarrel/Niwot, CO - Converted to be a Blackjack Pizza. Opened to 7,000 weeks Forced the Dominos (listed above as my first job) to close by February 2005. Sales jumped to 10,000 week which included a satellite unit being operated as Angelo’s at the IBM campus.

-April 2007 - Bought independent sub shop (Subworks Deli) located next to my pizza shop. Was doing 6000 week. Winner of Best Of Longmont every year we owned it.

-November 2011 - Sold sub shop to manager.

-January 2012 - Bought 4th Blackjack Pizza location (Louisville, CO). Doing 6,000 week. Nearly same size address count as Longmont and same demographic makeup.

July 2012 - Sold Gunbarrel Blackjack Pizza location to former manager (and current tt’r).

October 2012 - changed 100% focus on HOW shops were being run. Since then it has been 24 months of double digit growth. Louisville location is now averaging 12,000 week. Boulder is now averaging 30,000 (a whole lot better than when I first started talking to you) week and Longmont is now averaging 32,000 week.

Blackjack Pizza is a regional franchise that was first opened in Federal Heights, CO in 1983 and began franchising in 1989. It’s core was based on Dominos. The founder is still a franchisee and the chain was sold to a management group who also owns other regional chains around the country - Papas Pizza To Go, Breadeaux Pizza, and Papa Romanos out of Detroit. We are now supposed to be carrying the Papa Romanos signature Detroit Style Square Pan. I only have it at 1 location so far.

FYI - we are NOT Domiclones anymore! Our product quality is far above the Big 3 and our portions are “generous”.

Bodeg- Your sysco supplier lets you pay with a credit card? I wanted to do this for the airline miles. Free flight every month, but they told me I couldn’t do it. Gave me terms but no card.

Tell us what you changed in 2012 to get such great sales increases.

@aj, Yes. We pay Sysco by credit card. US Food also. And yes, free flights are great! Just got back from Key West last week on miles. Went to Honolulu in April.

Well lets see if i can remember all this …

1993 to 1995 - first job, Longmont Blackjack. Started as a phone person and worked my way up to makeline, then started doing dough and prep work during the day after school (and yes i was using the hobart at 16/17 lol, the owner was more afraid of me breaking the hobart then it breaking me).

1995 - Dominos in Gunbarrel, CO - worked for 2 or 3 months before moving to AZ for college.

1995 to 2001 (?) - After graduating college, worked for several years in my field of study. Got sick and tired of the politics and moved back to CO. I did work for the Dominos in Phoenix, AZ for like 1 or 2 months.

2001 to 2007 (?) - Started working back at the Longmont Blackjack for dale, insider/driver/ast manager. Went and worked for Papa Johns for alittle while as a driver. Worked as a electrican for about a year during this time and worked at a Liquor store part time for extra money.

2007 to 2009 - Went back to work for Dale at the Longmont Blackjack as a GM. Worked there for a just over a year, then moved over to the Gunbarrel Store as GM.

2009 to 2012 - Worked at IBM doing IT. Got bored of the corporate world again, starting looking for a pizza place to buy.

2012 to today - Owner/operator of the Gunbarrel Store. Enjoy almost every day (atleast at the end of the day lol, sometimes during the day i wish i was someone else). Would not trade it for anything else.

I graduated Law School in 1999, practiced in house at Sprint for 3 years, then started my own practice. I burned out in 2009 and saw an opportunity to fill a need in our neighborhood. Lots of people ask me if it was longtime passion of mine to open a restaurant and it was NOT. It was a business decision in a field in which I had interest. I think this is the most important piece that prospective restauranteurs miss - your passion for food does not pay the bills. Anyway, we’re 5 years into it with a lot of errors and mistakes behind us. We’re looking forward to at least 5 more!!

When I looked at the local pizza places with longevity, I noticed they were imbedded in neighborhoods and were not trendy (coal fired, neopalitan, etc.). That’s what we wanted to build - a neighborhood restaurant kids grow up with and then crave when they go away. I’m thankful to my neighbors/guests for sticking with us, sometimes to a fault. It’s very humbling when you have local folks that want to support you just because you are the local pizza place. I don’t know if I can do this until I die, but I’m loving it for now.