Boston Pizza International
A Mountie named Jim Treliving helped turn this Alberta, Canada, pizza store into a powerhouse with more than 400 locations across North America.
In 1964, Greek immigrant Gus Agioritis opened Boston Pizza (bostonpizza.com) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, with plans for steady growth. But even he couldn’t have predicted how far it would come—thanks in part to a Royal Mounted Canadian Police officer named Jim Treliving.
“Jim had been based in Edmonton and knew Gus; he was working at the pizzeria’s nightclub after hours as a bouncer,” explains Perry Schwartz, director of communications for Boston Pizza International. “He saw how much people liked the business and caught the bug to open his own.”
Treliving used his savings, pension and loans to open his Boston Pizza franchise in Penticton, British Columbia, in the late ’60s. He’d learned the recipes from Agioritis, and he soon brought in partner George Melville to oversee accounting and business plans. By 1983 they’d grown to 16 locations in the province. That same year, they decided to buy the then-44-location company from Ron Coyle, who had bought it from Agioritis in 1978, and the power duo still oversees the 360 locations in Canada today. “We always tried to act big, even though we weren’t always a big brand,” Schwartz says. “We hired Howie Mandel as a spokesperson in the early ’90s, ran national TV campaigns and always released new innovations. We added a Hawaiian pizza to the menu in the early ’60s, when many Canadians didn’t know what pizza was, never mind Hawaiian!”
Today, the menu offers more than 100 items, many of which have been firsts in Canada—like the Pizza Taco, the Spicy Perogy Pizza, Pizzaburger sliders and the five-layer Pizza Cake. In addition to its 23,000 staff members in Canada, the company has accumulated 40 stores in the United States and eight in Mexico. It also has raised $20 million over the last two decades to support families and children in need through the Boston Pizza Foundation.
Today, as the ever-growing company celebrates 50 years in August, Schwartz emphasizes that it will stay true to its core values while seeking new opportunities to grow. “We always focus on great food and a great customer experience,” he says. “But, of course, we’re always thinking, ‘Where do we go next?’” —Tracy Morin