This entrepreneurial owner transformed $400 and a dream into a pizzeria empire.
The year was 1954, and ex-Navy man Buddy LaRosa knew he wanted to start his own business. When he started selling his Aunt Dina’s pizza at church festivals and received an overwhelming response, he put his $400 savings (convincing a few partners to lend him the rest) into LaRosa’s (larosas.com), a neighborhood pizzeria on Cincinnati’s west side. An instant hit with locals and high-school kids, the pizzeria took off, but until the late ’60s had only one location. Then, when a hoagie bun supplier offered to start the first franchise location, LaRosa accepted, and today nearly 70 pizzerias operate under the LaRosa name in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.
LaRosa’s pulled off a huge coup in 1991 when all of the locations (then more than 40) began to take orders from one phone number. “A watershed milestone for LaRosa’s was when we united the ordering and customer service function under one phone number,” remembers CEO Mike LaRosa, Buddy’s son. “Within the first few years after the launch, our business grew threefold.” LaRosa’s also implemented online ordering for all of its stores in 2003.
LaRosa’s also grew strong brand recognition by offering a line of food products in grocery stores about 20 years ago; today, the company manufactures canned and jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, lasagna and ravioli, hoagie buns, grated Romano, olive oil and more.
Even with the massive expansion, the younger LaRosa focuses on upholding and surpassing the standards that have made the business so successful for 55 years. “Our culture is one where we constantly strive to get better,” he says. “My father had a motto that we all live by: ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.’”–Tracy Morin