2009 March: Five Questions

Bear Silber co-owns Pizza Party, a one-store operation in Santa Clara, California. Once a Pizza Party customer, Silber, age 26, is in the process of buying the property from the couple that previously owned the pizzeria. At this point, they are equal partners in the business.

PT: What made you want to buy a pizzeria?

BS: I’ve always wanted to do something in the culinary field. I’ve done a lot of different jobs in the past: I’ve tutored; I’ve been a P.E. coach, a plumber, a carpenter. I’ve done marketing and Web design. I was at a point where I wanted to settle into a career. I’ve never been classically trained and it was getting a little late for me to go to culinary school, so I looked around at places I could get involved with without having that training. I looked at ice cream parlors, delis, doughnut shops and pizza parlors. I settled on pizza because it has a family atmosphere and you have people sitting around for a while and hanging out in your pizzeria. In an ice cream parlor, they stay maybe 15 minutes and then leave.

PT: Have you made any changes since buying in to Pizza Party last fall?

BS: I’ve made a lot of changes. I came in here and redid the Web site and logo. I wanted to change the name, but it was already changed a few years ago and you can’t continue to change the name all the time. But Pizza Party does represent what we do. I also redid the menu, both the items and the graphics.

PT: What items did you add or drop from the menu?

BS: I dropped very little, if anything. But we added wraps and they’re doing very well. We also added jalapeño poppers and root beer fl oats, and we’re going to add artisan pies soon. We have specialty pizzas, but I want to take a three-tiered approach and offer the regular sausage and pepperoni pizzas, the specialties like veggie or BBQ chicken, and then have the artisan pizzas. I’ve been taking baby steps and still have a ways to go, but every day I try to do a little something different.

PT: Why didn’t the poor economy deter you from getting involved in pizzeria ownership?

BS: I had no idea about that. I got to the point in my life where I didn’t have a career and I really wanted to make one for myself. It was the right time for me personally. I didn’t want to wait two years until the economy got better. Look at McDonald’s. They’re doing great right now. Even in this economy, someone is going to do well.

PT: You’re really into marketing through the social networking sites, aren’t you?

BS: Yes. I’m doing a lot with Yelp and Twitter. The day after the Super Bowl, I got on Twitter and offered a free mini pizza to the first person who came into the pizzeria wearing a Steelers jersey. I’ve put up trivia questions and given the first person to respond with the correct answer a small pizza –– things like that. It’s not quite driving in people yet. I think it will take some time to catch on. But, when you think about it, how many millions of people are there on Facebook? It’s slow to come around, but you’ll see people building on it more and more. It’s fun to get a dialogue started with your customers.