Part V: Franchise Expansion
“If you talk to a lawyer,” Paulie informs me, “and you talk to the F.T.C., they’ll tell ya that they’re franchises… but my intention is to build a brotherhood of pizza entrepreneurs, ok? I told the lawyers what I wanted to do. They told me I had to form a franchise company. They told me what it would cost to do that. So I decided to ask another lawyer. I told em what I wanted to do, they told me that I had to form a franchise company. So I asked a third lawyer. Third lawyer? Franchise company. So, I bit the bullet and I did that. But really I build personal relationships with these people. They come in, ya know, when they can, they work with me… Derrick, who is gonna open up with me in Chicago, he contacted me for advice and I was itching to do something in Chicago, I had read about Wicker Park which is a great neighborhood… and when I talked with him, I said, where ya thinking about opening and he said ya know, Naperville, or something… he had a mobile business already making pizza out that way, Za Pie… he thinks it was a nice name. Hopefully he’s not reading this. In any case, I said, that’s too bad because I was hoping to maybe do something with somebody in Wicker Park. And about five minutes later we were on our way.”
So Paulie and Derrick looked for the right location all over Chicago, including neighborhoods that Paulie didn’t really like and then, finally, they found something in Wicker Park. “Ya know, Logan Square is great,” Paulie says, with a smile. “Wicker Park is to Logan Square as Williamsburg is to Greenpoint, and Greenpoint was the place for me to come to. I didn’t know it at the time, but I realized that Logan Square was the same thing.”
This is just one of the many Paulie Gee’s pipelined to open in the next year: Chicago, Miami, Columbus, and Baltimore…
“It’s not Paulie Gee’s Baltimore,” Paulie chimes. “It’s Paulie Gee’s Hampden. It’s not Paulie Gee’s Chicago, it’s Paulie Gee’s Logan Square. The neighborhood that we’re in in Miami is called the Upper East Side. We’re not calling it Paulie Gee’s Upper East Side, so we’re calling it Paulie Gee’s Miami. I like to name them after neighborhoods, not cities, because I think that’s more personal. Ya come here, this is a neighborhood pizzeria. It’s not an Italian place or something like that. The people who work here are people from the neighborhood. I don’t have Italian pizza makers wearing red neckerchiefs or caputo shirts.”
Paulie is also talking with more people, growing his brotherhood, including partners in Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. “We’ll see what happens,” he says. “Andrew [Brown] was gonna do something with me in Oakland. But, ya know what, he really felt like he wanted to stay here and do something in New York and he came to me with this slice joint idea and, ya know, he’s gonna run it.”
Paulie, once deterred by expansion for fear of the original restaurant suffering, has since turned to partnerships and franchising his brand, to further his business and passion by helping others open collaborative pizzerias all over the country.
“I learned a long time ago,” Paulie explains. “Not that long ago, back in the 90s, I was a multi-level marketeer and one of the things you do as a multi-level marketeer is you help yourself by helping other people, ok? You build an organization of people, you support them, you teach them how to do things and you get a little piece of their action. Ok? And by the way, if it wasn’t for being a multi-level marketeer, I would not be here today because everything that helped me build this place I got from the conferences we went to where they brought in people who motivated you and taught you how to think positively and make commitments and speak things into existence, it was all from that.
“And the underlying theme of the whole thing was help yourself by helping other people. So I realized that I could help other people open up their own spots, under my name, I could share everything that I’ve learned, ok, I can encourage them and then I would help myself as well by taking a little piece of their action. And I was gonna do it in Philadelphia and I brought my friend up, I thought he would be good, my friend Kelly Beckham, he lives in Baltimore, he’s the biggest pizza enthusiast that I knew, that I had a relationship with, and I thought he’d like to do that… he came up, we looked at a spot, there were a couple other people I was thinking about doing it with and… I thought, he’s gonna have to move his family up and I said, ‘Kelly, what about down by you? Maybe we should look and see if there’s some place in Baltimore.’ And sure enough, we found this neighborhood, great neighborhood, Hampden, and we set out to find a spot and the first time we looked, I found a spot.
“We were looking at this pharmacy – it wasn’t big enough – and as we’re looking at this pharmacy I see this building to my left down not even half a block off this main drag where there’s a lot of action in Hampden and there it was. And today, after all of this time, I’m not even gonna say how long because it’s embarrassing, we’re about to open there, ok?
“Ya know, people come to me all the time asking for advice, and a lot of people come and they want to open up their own spot and then I started finding people who wanted to do this with me. After Baltimore I was working with somebody in Philly and then I was working with somebody else in Philly and then somebody else in Philly… none of it worked out. But now I got a guy in Philly. I really believe we’re going to make things happen in Philly now.”
Belief and a commitment to helping others, while taking some action himself, has allowed Paulie to grow and expand his business.
But really, it’s more than that. With these initial franchise locations and their respective business partners, Paulie Gee has in fact founded a Brotherhood of Pizza Entrepreneurs all across the country. His partners and co-owners are just as fanatical about pizza as he is.
Well, that’s probably not true, compared to the bonafide “pizza madman” but I think we can all rest assured that none of the new locations will be putting pepperoni on their pizzas.