zpizza Expanding to Clintonville, Planning Five Additional Locations
zpizza is about to get much larger in Columbus. While the company is based in Southern California, local entrepreneur Steve Curtis is putting his back into turning his regional franchise operation into something the community can be proud of. After piloting his single store in the Short North for the past three years, Steve and his wife and business partner Erin are working on developing additional locations throughout Central Ohio, starting with Clintonville, the neighborhood that they also call home.
We recently spoke with Steve for a Q&A session about the upcoming Clintonville location at 5060 North High Street, and to find out what else he has in store.
Q: Can you tell us what first interested you in the zpizza concept and what was appealing to you about bringing a franchise location here to Columbus?
A: I have wanted to work for myself from a very young age… as long as I can really remember. Most of my family members are entrepreneurs and have opened and operated a variety of businesses. I got in to the restaurant business in high school, working in fast food and as a dishwasher in full service restaurants. I just kind of stayed in the restaurant world, so when I was finally able to open my own business, a restaurant was the logical choice. At the time I was working as an area supervisor for a big chain. I wanted to do something a little more unique and after talking to a few banks I realized a franchise was going to make it easier to secure financing. So I set out to find the right franchise for me. After doing some research I narrowed it down to a few options, with zpizza being one. They are headquartered in Southern California and I had family living there. My wife and I went out to meet with the corporate team. It was clear from the beginning that we were going to be involved with zpizza. The founder, Sid Fanaroff, is very passionate about the quality and values at zpizza. He would much rather talk with you about the reasons for using organic, all natural ingredients than the bottom line, yet the business side had been proven with over 20 years of experience. We now just needed to decide if we wanted to move to L.A. and open or bring the concept to Columbus. I’ve been in Columbus most of my life and thought the concept was one that would do well here, so we decided to stay and try to grow the business here.
Q: So, you’ve been up and running in the Short North for the past three years now… what attracted you to growing into Clintonville next?
A: I love the Short North. I lived in the neighborhood for over a decade before buying a home in Clintonville. I wasn’t very familiar with Clintonville before moving to the area in 2007. In the last four years my wife and I have really grown to love the area. The parks and green space along with the close proximity to all the other central city neighborhoods is great. One thing that we always feel lacking in the neighborhood are restaurants. We knew there was a market for zpizza, we just needed to find the right location. Based on our experience, people in the area are interested in being healthy and environmentally conscious when it comes to what they eat. We enjoy walking to the Co-Op and the Clintonville Farmers Market. I think the neighborhood will respond to our healthier approach to pizza and our vegan and gluten free options.
Q: What sort of criteria went into choosing the Clintonville location?
A: There aren’t a lot of retail locations and even fewer that will work as a restaurant without an expensive renovation. I have been looking for locations and have had a few deals get close but fall through over the last couple of years. Over the winter, my real estate broker brought this location to me and I started talking with the landlord.
At first I didn’t like the location because it is in a very car-dependent part of High Street. One of the things I love about the Short North and the Southern end of Clintonville is the walkability. After looking at the location more, we liked the draw of Graceland with Target and Kroger. It’s undeniable that Graceland has made a great come back over the last ten years. There is a large neighborhood that backs up to the site as well. In the end, the thing that sold us on the location was being able to reach both the Clintonville and Worthington markets.
Q: You mention that Clintonville is lacking in restaurants… do you think the neighborhood is lacking specifically in pizza options?
A: Clintonville has several long established, independent pizza shops like Dante’s and Gatto’s, but what we do is just very different from them. It’s a different style of pizza and I think there is room for them and us. Just about every big chain pizza place is represented in Clintonville or Worthington, but again we have even more differences with them than with the smaller local shops. We really focus on fresh ingredients, dough made in-store daily as well as a lot of in-house prep work that includes making sauces and roasting vegetables. We have over 40 toppings, such as roasted eggplant, roasted yams and caramelized onions, all made fresh in the store. We use organic and all natural ingredients where available and have many lower calorie and lower fat options. That’s not to say we don’t have pepperoni pizza, we do. It just has 150 less calories per slice and no additives.
Q: So what sort of differences can customers expect between the two locations?
A: The menus will be the same at both locations but the Clintonville store will be much smaller… about half the size of the Short North location. There will still be seating for 20 and a patio that will seat another 20. The delivery area will be larger in Clintonville, extending about three miles to the North and South. The design will be slightly different, with the Clintonville store being a little more modern.
Q: Any timeline on when you’re expecting to be open?
A: This is always hard to say in the restaurant world. We are shooting for an early fall opening but I will be sure to update you as we get closer.
Q: Any other plans for zpizza in the near future?
A: I recently signed on to be the development agent for zpizza in Columbus. We plan to open five additional stores over the next few years. I will be the person to help other franchisees find locations, negotiate leases and navigate the opening process. Anyone that would like to talk with me about opening their own zpizza should feel free to contact me at [email protected].
More information can be found online at www.zpizza.com.