SAMMY MANDELL NAMED PIZZA TODAY’S FIRST YOUNG ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR
A LOOK INSIDE DALLAS-BASED GREENVILLE AVENUE PIZZA COMPANY (GAPCO)
Sammy Mandell sat arms folded over his forehead as the anticipation built seconds before the name of Pizza Today’s first-ever Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner was announced at International Pizza Expo in March. He stood, eyes wide, as his name was called while his table of Greenville Avenue Pizza Company (GAPCo) team members and the audience erupted into cheers.
He put himself out there in a major way, along with finalists Christal Spata of Valeo’s Pizza in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Scottie Rivera of Scottie’s Pizza Parlor in Portland, Oregon, to share his entrepreneurial story to a large banquet room filled with fellow pizzeria operators who voted on a winner based on a 10- to 15-minute presentation and a four-minute video.
That’s what an entrepreneur does. They take chances. They innovate. “If you would have told me 10 years ago, at the age of 35, that I would own two restaurants, a trademarked seasoning, a licensed song, and designed and created the persona of the Pizza Slayer, I would have told you that you are crazy. But that’s what an entrepreneur is — crazy,” he said in his Young Entrepreneur video submission.
Pizza Today traveled to Dallas, Texas, in April to spend the day with our first Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Sammy met us outside of the Lowest Greenville GAPCo location with an undeniable energy. He introduced Munchie (GAPCo’s pizza slice mascot) and the crew as we passed through the narrow counter-service slice shop, open pizza makeline and communal high-top seating. We continued out the back door, up a flight of stairs and into GAPCo’s office, where we met the leadership team: wife and co-owner Molly, who leads GAPCo’s social and community outreach strategies; Phil Bossart, creative director; Sena Munoz, financial administrator, and Katelin Auden, office administrator.
The large footprint was laid out like a creative agency with a common area and offices. Items dotted around the room reveal GAPCo’s evolution. A mannequin wore the latest prototype of a leather holster, a key piece of the pizza maker’s (Pizza Slayer’s) uniform. GAPCo t-shirts and other swag lined one wall and a custom e-bike took center stage.
It’s clear that Sammy has created a space that has both positioned GAPCo for growth and made it a pizzeria think-tank of sorts.
On a large, dry-erase board, Sammy has outlined extremely rapid growth goals for GAPCo, seven more stores in just four years. GAPCo sat at No. 80 on Pizza Today’s Hot 100 Independent Pizzerias list in 2017 with more than $2.8 million in annual gross sales. Sammy says 2018 should see a significant jump up the list. GAPCo was also among Fortune’s 100 Fastest Growing Inner-City Businesses.
In order to reach the pizzeria’s growth benchmarks, he has set employee development and attracting top talent as key to GAPCo’s expansion.
Sitting down with the team, the first area Sammy chose to highlight was GAPCo’s in-house videos, the cornerstone of Sammy’s vision for the company. He hired Bossart as creative director over a year ago to create high-quality, professionally produced content that is edgy and fun.
“Something that I’m trying to do is create a brand that becomes a magnet that attracts talent,” Sammy says, adding that the content and the Pizza Slayer persona helps GAPCo visualize the attractiveness of its culture. “A lot of the reason for the content, bringing on Phil — all of this — was to say, ‘How can we make the brand look so attractive, how can we put this vision out there that people say, ‘hey I want to work at GAPCo. I want to be a Pizza Slayer.’”
GAPCo videos are captivating and cool. Many of them are a little off-the-wall, like one that chants “slay pizza” continuously. But, that’s the point. GAPCo is different and it’s looking to attract a different kind of talent.
“For us, it’s really trying to bring people into our story, instead of it being ‘oh, hey, we make pizza; we’re scratch; we’re local,” says Sammy, adding that GAPCo embodies those qualities. But, “It’s looking at this world we are trying to create.”