What started out as a family tradition turned into a priority when Robert Gunn, owner of ILLY’S Fire Pizza, lost his job working for a telephone company.
Robert owns the ‘80s-’90s hip hop-themed pizza joint with his wife, Kelly.
He told Dayton.com he had the idea of making pizzas on Christmas Eve after he and his daughter, Bobbi, had a flour fight.
“I just fell in love with the craft of making pizza and it stemmed from there,” Robert said.
He explained his family moved from Dayton to Columbus to follow his job, but then he was laid off. ILLY’S Fire Pizza launched in March 2013 as a way to provide for their family. ILLY is an acronym that stands for “I’m livin’ life – you?” The owners said people are supposed to respond, “livin’.”
Their favorite part of owning the pizza joint is the aspect of family.
“It’s the whole sense of family because we started it in our home and then we grew it with our children,” Kelly said.
Since opening ILLY’S Fire Pizza, the couple said they have been presented with several different opportunities to expand their business, but none of those felt right. However, opening their first brick-and-mortar in W. Social Tap & Table, Dayton’s first food hall, truly felt right.
“This is where we are from,” Kelly said. “This is our home. This is where we grew up.”
She explained her grandfather was one of the original Ohio Players and Robert’s father owned a TV shop for 20-30 years in the area. She said there is a sense of home and community at the food hall and knowing they are helping to alleviate a food dessert in West Dayton is a plus.
“Our goal is to provide a healthier alternative for pizza and something fun for pizza lovers,” Kelly said. “We do all turkey. We don’t do any pork or beef.”
Customer favorites include the Jive Turkey featuring turkey pepperoni, turkey sausage and turkey bacon and the Illuxe featuring turkey pepperoni, turkey sausage, spinach, onions, mushrooms, olives and feta. All pizzas have a six cheese blend, a special sauce and a sweet finish on the crust, they said.
With the help of a 7,000-pound pizza oven named Mia, they are sure to get the job done. Robert said they will be able to cook 14 to 16 pizzas at one time in 90 seconds.
“We’re looking forward to bringing together families,” Robert said. “We’re looking to bring a fun, hip environment.”
To play off of their ‘80s-’90s hip hop theme, employees will wear Adidas track suits and have their own jargon.
“A lot of people have the misconception that hip hop and family don’t go together and it’s actually the opposite,” Kelly said. “Family is not always considered cool in our community, so we definitely want to change that stereotype.”
The couple said customers can expect a lot of conversation and laughter because they want to make sure you feel like family when you walk through the doors.
W. Social Tap & Table, located at 1100 W. Third St., is a joint venture between Wright Dunbar Inc. and Dillin Corp. The $2.1 million project will transform a former conference center into a food hall with a bar and five other independent businesses including De’Lish, Grind House Coffee & Tea Co., The Lumpia Queen, SOCA and Taco Street Co. The food hall is expected to open this summer.
For more information on W. Social Tap & Table, visit the food hall’s Facebook page.
**Please note this is one of seven stories featuring tenants in W. Social Tap & Table**