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Made in Michigan: Single-store Pizzeria

Great Lakes Pizza Company in the Harrison Square Shopping Center in Livonia
Great Lakes Pizza Company in the Harrison Square Shopping Center in Livonia
IdeaPerson.net

A new kid on the block opened up recently in Livonia that certainly deserves a look-see from pizza lovers. And its owner is rolling out the red carpet to new and existing customers. The Great Lakes Pizza Company in the Harrison Square Plaza on Five Mile Road in Livonia opened for business in early 2014 and has been slowly building up its client base due to good products and good service.

I recently became a new customer, thanks to a unique marketing program (and daily walks past the business). Great Lakes sent out postcards to local residents with a free pizza offer – no strings attached. So I called in my order (tomato & onions – yum) and picked up the pizza within 15 minutes (they also deliver).

I had the opportunity to have a brief chat with Great Lakes Pizza owner Andrew Ellis, a veteran of ten years in the pizza business, mostly with Domino’s Pizza. Ellis returned to the pizza business after ten years as a software consultant for several reasons.

“Besides being a fan of pizza, I have always enjoyed the energy of a dinner rush,” he said. “I enjoy the fact that the dinner rush requires the focus and teamwork of every team member. Handling a big rush with a great crew is itself a rush for me and most interactions between us and our customers are pleasant.”

Good customer service is one way to bring in customers but in a very competitive market, it also takes good products and a good business plan. “From a product perspective, we slice, dice, cut, chop, make as much of our products in house as possible,” Ellis said. “We make our own dough in house, shred and grate our own cheeses, dice our own vegetables, make our own dressings, etc. I think making these things in house gives our customers a fresher, higher quality product.

“From a business perspective, I think we are unique in that we are owner-operated. While there are a few others out there, they are getting fewer and further between. Being owner-operated means that our customers have a direct line to communicate their preferences, discuss concerns, etc. We get to know our customers, try to address them by name, know their like and dislikes.”

And Ellis doesn’t just stop at happy customers; he strives to have happy employees, too. “I have promised all of our employees that we will establish a profit sharing plan once we become profitable,” he said. “In this way, I hope to build a team who shares that ownership in the success of the business.”

If you browse the Great Lakes Pizza Company website at www.greatlakespizzacompany.net, you will not only see a menu which includes pizza, grinders, salad, chicken wings, bread products and more, you can also click on several items of interest including online ordering, community involvement projects, text message club and many more things.

So how did the free pizza promotion go? “So far in the first few months, our redemption rate is around 20% on the cards we have sent out, which is a solid rate of return,” Ellis said. “We have had a number of regular, paying customers who have indicated that they originally learned of us from the postcards, so I think this has been very effective. One unique aspect of the implementation here at Great Lakes Pizza Company is that most of those using their cards have come in to pick up their pizza and I have been able to speak to them one on one, introduce myself, answer questions about the business, etc.”

And what about my free tomato & onion pizza? Two thumbs up! Kudos to Andrew Ellis and his friendly staff. I think I’ll order the “Kitchen Sink” next time. Curious? Call them at 888-635-6160. The Great Lakes Pizza Company is located at 28408 Five Mile Road in Livonia, a half-mile east of Middlebelt Road. Visit them online at www.greatlakespizzacompany.net.