EricS.

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James Monaghan sold his share in DomiNick’s—precursor to the world’s second-largest pizza chain—to brother Tom for a Volkswagen Beetle.

With a $75 down payment and a loan of $500, brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought their first pizza store, called DomiNick’s, in Ypsilanti, Michigan, in 1960. James ended up selling his stake in the company months later to his brother for a Volkswagen Beetle, when the company still operated in the red. Probably not the smartest move.

“The initial days were slow; it was December, and kids weren’t out much,” explains Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza (dominos.com), now based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “Delivering pizza to the dorms is what helped turn the business around.” In 1965, Tom renamed the business Domino’s, and by 1967, the first franchise store in Ypsilanti opened up, beginning one massive domino effect: Domino’s opened its 10,000th store in 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.

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As in the early days, the business’ focus on delivery was key to its success. “We did not invent delivery, but Domino’s was the first pizzeria to focus on it almost entirely,” McIntyre says. Tom further revolutionized the pizza industry with the 30-minute delivery guarantee introduced in the mid-’80s. And, over the years, several pizza innovations have been developed with the help of Domino’s, including the pizza screen, the conveyor oven, the corrugated pizza box and hot bag technology.

Tom eventually sold the company in 1998 for $1 billion—so much for that VW Beetle—and the company became publicly traded in 2004. But in recent years, the company has undergone major changes, introducing new menu items such as Breadbowl Pastas, oven-baked sandwiches, and the American Legends premium pizza line; the highly successful Pizza Tracker System as part of the online ordering process; the unveiling of a completely new recipe amid a self-deprecating marketing campaign; and ads designed to show greater transparency for the business. But McIntyre insists that the opportunities Domino’s offers its employees will never change. “Nearly 90% of all franchisees in the United States started as pizza delivery drivers or assistant managers,” he says. “The success of our people is among the greatest successes of our brand.” –Tracy Morin

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20 Comments

  1. BobbyReply
    July 10, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    My brother has told me our grandparents sold their store to be the first dominicks in ypsilanti michigan. George & Grace Megiveron.
    -Bobby George, Fremont Indiana

  2. J David PattersonReply
    November 23, 2016 at 7:17 am

    My wife went to her Senior Prom with James. Before Beetle.
    And many years before I knew her, I owned a graphic arts biz in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti and was briefly the printer of Domino’s business cards.
    And later, one of Domino’s original franchise owners left the fold and went out on his own and hired me to design their logo, print advertising, and packaging art, and for years, DJ’s Pizza, on Packard, in Ann Arbor, was a very successful Domino’s deserter.
    Small round cheese covered world, eh.

  3. claireReply
    October 15, 2017 at 3:43 am

    what ever happened to james?

    • NancyReply
      October 5, 2020 at 6:56 am

      James went to work for the Post Office and the for Ypsilanti Public Schools as a custodian
      Jum ran an annual steam engine show every September at Domino’s farm. Where he would run his steam engine boats on the pond and feed anyone that can from a bug black cauldron.

      Both brothers are devoted members of the Catholic Church.
      James last month was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and is currently in hospice care.
      Tom flew back to Michigan to be at his brothers side providing for Jim’s needs.

      • Sarah BakerReply
        October 29, 2020 at 8:24 pm

        I’m sorry to hear of his passing. Jeff came by today and my heart hurts for him. Jim is in the Kingdom of Heaven with no pain.

  4. February 23, 2019 at 3:08 pm

    When I lived and worked in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti from 1988 to 1993, I worked part time as a news reporter for “Pizza Radio,” WPZA-AM/FM in the world headquarters of Domino’s Pizza. I covered six presidential candidates who visited UMichigan and Ypsilanti in 1992, Alex Haley’s visit to UMichigan on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January 1992, the Michigan Supreme Court child-custody case (Jessica De Boer/Anna Schmidt), the UMichigan and Eastern Michigan University boards of regents and more.
    Jim Monaghan was a custodian for the Ypsilanti School District, probably after selling his share in the partnership.

    Tom Monaghan’s Domino’s Farms hosted Jim Monaghan’s Gas-Up exhibition of gas engines of various types, and Tom would demonstrate his considerable hand-tossing pizza skills. He also exhibited 95 antique and classic cars, including a Tucker 48 (No. 24 of 51 made; sold for $275,000 at auction to the Gast family nearby), two Duesenbergs ($1 million each) and a unique (coachwork) 1931 Bugatti Royale. bought the Bugatti for $.1 million and was offered $11 million for it, his curator told me. He charged $5 to see the collection.

    The photo above is NOT a Volkswagen Beetle; it’s a Checker car, famous for its spacious interior and models commonly used as taxicabs. The Checker cabs used the checkerboard design as a ribbon around the car beneath the windows. Other “Checker cabs” were not Checker cars but “borrowed” the checkerboard ribbon, maybe not legally. The Checker Motor Car Co., where the Checker cars and cabs were built, was based in Kalamazoo, Mich.

  5. gregory austinReply
    September 18, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    I cooked many a meal for Mr. Monaghan while working as a chef at Katherines catering. He had a tar paper shack in the boonies of Washtenaw county where he entertained guests such as Cardinal Adam Maida, Sparky Anderson, Al Kaline, Jim Campbell and various business associates. The menu always included hors d’oeuvres, salad, lobster casserole, roast buffalo tenderloin, sweet and white potato casserole with bacon and pecans and asparagus. Bananas Foster for dessert. Mr. Monaghan was always gracious to me and our staff, and a solicitous host. Those were great times!

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