Summarize your restaurant involvement in Dayton. We’ll get comfortable.
Currently, I’m the founder and owner/operator of Spinoza’s Pizza & Salads in Beavercreek. My professional career began in Dayton during my early college days when I worked for Domino’s Pizza . After a few years, another ex-Domino’s employee (Bill Daniels) and I started our own little pizza shop on Salem Avenue called “Dayton’s Original Pizza Factory.” We learned a lot about business, pizza, and customer service in those early years and had the privilege of serving awesome gourmet and traditional pies to adventurous pizza connoisseurs in the Dayton area.
>> Bill Daniels gets to 'make people happy all day' as owner of Dayton's Original Pizza Factory
In 1995, I opened another pizza venture called Pacchia Wood Fired Pizza in Dayton’s Historic Oregon District. This little restaurant, with its copper-clad oven and big-city ambiance, quickly prospered and lasted until I sold it in 2008.
Not really knowing what was next in my pizza journey — perhaps even thinking my days of spinning dough were over — I discovered an empty pizzeria space in the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek (my hometown). The space was great, the rent was right and I was yearning to toss dough again. So in the Spring of 2009, Spinoza’s Gourmet Pizza & Salads was born. Spinoza's is now in its 10th year and hopes to finalize negotiations soon for a renewed lease.
What’s a typical work day for you now?
I usually arrive at Spinoza's by 9 a.m. to complete the daily paperwork and prepare the staff for the day's business. After the lunch rush, I usually leave for a few hours to run errands and perhaps take a late lunch break at another locally-owned restaurant. Then it's back to Spinoza's to meet with suppliers and brewery reps, and often with local farmers. After that I meet with the staff to discuss service issues and to prepare for dinner operations. Then I spend a few hours making multiple batches of artisan ice cream!
>> Homemade ice cream now on Spinoza's menu
Tell us why you decided to stay in and settle in the Dayton area.
Mostly because of family and opportunity. I was fortunate to travel a great deal when I was growing up and into my post-college years. These travels inspired me to look for unique concepts and ideas to bring back home to Dayton. For example, Pacchia was the first wood-fired pizza operation in the city of Dayton.
What’s been your most recent professional challenge, and how did you push through the challenge?
I am actually still searching for the "light at the end of the tunnel" for my most recent professional challenge, which is the increasing saturation of new chain restaurants in the region, along with the resulting upward pressure on wage rates in a shrinking labor market. But I remember having some of the same issues back in the 1980s at The Pizza Factory. Back then we had no choice but to keep pushing forward, to succeed no matter what, and to never settle for anything less than excellence. Today, as in those early business days on Salem Avenue, the people of Dayton recognize and support the hard work of its entrepreneurs. I am not sure that is true in too many other cities.
What are your favorite places to eat and/or drink in the Dayton area, beyond those you have a connection to?
I often enjoy a late lunch at Tsao's Cuisine on Colonel Glenn (near Wright State University). Otherwise, I don't really get out much for meals, but when I do, I always support locally owned restaurants. And many of them are owned by former staff who worked for me at Pacchia or Spinoza's! I am super-proud of people like Keith Taylor (Savona), Dana Downs (Roost), Joe Fish (The Chef Case), Brett Barker (Press Coffee Bar & Wood Burl Roasters), and Karen Wick (Coco's), just to name a few.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
While it might not be a "guilty pleasure" in the true sense of the phrase, I do enjoy wasting a day binge-watching a series on Netflix or Amazon Prime (but that doesn't happen too often!).
What inspires you about Dayton?
I have always been inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit found in Dayton. After spending 14 years in the Oregon District, I must admit that I have not ventured downtown very much in the ensuing years. I recently reconnected with my former barista Brett Barker at his Wayne Avenue Press Coffee Bar and was amazed at the positive changes taking place downtown. Dayton is a city that, like the entrepreneurs it inspires, keeps pushing forward to succeed!