This Motor City institution is passionate about its pizza, but it’s also well-loved by the community for its heart.
In 1940s Detroit, pizza was picking up steam as a favorite food. When a former employee of a local pizzeria brought his recipe to the Polish owners of Shield’s Bar, pies were quickly added to the menu to feed hungry patrons. The bar—opened in 1937—began to serve food in 1946 and found success with the pizzas until selling the establishment to Deano Moraitis in 1974. In 1992, Moraitis’ nephews, Paul and Peter Andoni, bought the business, and they continue the tradition to this day. “Our Detroit-style deep-dish pizza is the centerpiece of the menu, but we’ve expanded to appeal to a wider variety of customers, with salads, appetizers, pasta, ribs, burgers and sandwiches,” says Paul, co-owner of Shield’s Franchise Restaurants (shieldspizza.com). “But when it comes to the pizza, we don’t take any shortcuts—we use the same recipes for sauce and dough that have been handed down for years, and we’re proud to maintain the quality that made Shield’s famous.”
Today, Shield’s has two locations in Troy and Southfield, Michigan, plus a third franchise location, opened in nearby McComb Township in 2005. Despite the area’s recent hard-times economy, all three stores are going strong. It didn’t hurt that the Andoni brothers had plenty of real-world experience (their father owned both a franchise and a family-style restaurant) as well as the education (degrees in marketing and economics) to succeed. “We knew that Shield’s was a well-respected, established name and brand, so we wanted to grow and expand it,” Paul says. “We love this business—from greeting the customers to building a team of great employees that are doing the best job possible to satisfy our guests. It’s in my blood!”
The payback has been significant: countless “best pizza” awards, kudos from both local and national press, and expansion planned through additional franchising in Michigan. But Paul insists that his greatest successes have centered around giving back to the community. At the height of the recent recession, the pizzeria fed free pizzas to unemployed locals. When the Detroit Lions were winless in the first several games of a season, Shield’s promised free pizza to all when they scored their first win. “We had lines around the buildings for these events, but it’s more than a PR stunt; it gives people the opportunity to enjoy Shield’s Pizza,” Paul says. “It’s great to make a profit, but it’s more important to support the local community. When you have that passion, you look forward to coming to work every day.” —Tracy Morin