On the We Love Edmonton Series, we’re featuring Edmonton's favourite local pizza shop, LOVEPIZZA! Braede & Gavin are the owners, with a heart for community, In 2018 they received two national philanthropy awards, they’ve been big supporters or Hope Mission, Terra Centre and WABIY (we all believe in you). Combining their love of community and a passion to serve great local pizza they opened their downtown location in 2016 following the success of their first restaurant, they gave LOVEPIZZA fans a second location in Saint Albert.
Thanks Braede for taking the time to do this interview! Our family loves pizza! As you know my husband Rod has his yearly favourite the Nachopizza! It’s what got him hooked along with Meatatarian, then there’s my favourite the Old Macdonald. I like to add my personal favourite, balsamic and a drizzle of honey!! so good!
Braede, how did you get started in your business? Is pizza something you’ve always loved?
We opened our first shop in January 2016 in downtown Edmonton. At that time fast-casual pizza wasn't really a "thing" in Edmonton or very popular in Canada in general (though it has been popular in the US for a while). We had talked and joked around about opening a pizza shop for years because we love it and some things aligned, so we went for it. Fast-casual pizza has changed and grown a lot even in 3 years, but we still set ourselves apart on the quality of and our community.
Did you have a background in the restaurant industry?
My husband and business partner, Gavin has a background in building restaurants. He is one of the founders of Press'd the Sandwich Company which has grown into 16 franchised units throughout western Canada. He knows how to build restaurants, put in systems and train people. He is an accountant by trade and left corporate finance 10 years ago to start that. I was working at a big energy company in the city during that time and we always talked about building something together. Gavin was approached by a wonderful human who wanted to bring fast-casual pizza to Edmonton - we created the brand, the systems, the menu (with local Chef Paul Shufeldt), the community engagement and opened up our first LOVEPIZZA.
We have always loved pizza, people and our community - so this business is a brainchild of that. It's been a really special thing doing it together as a couple and a family. When we opened our doors downtown our son (lovingly known as the LOVEPIZZA prince) was only 5 months old, so he's grown up in it - literally. I was pregnant when we were planning, designing and building so our little human was always a source of inspiration (ex. putting change tables in both washrooms). Being new parents we wanted to create our favourite food with ingredients and processes that we were proud and comfortable to feed our own child - we make our dough from scratch, our sauces fresh in house with no preservatives, we cook whole fresh chicken breast with no fillers and take a lot of pride in the fresh ingredients we have in our line up.
I can't begin to imagine what a day must look like for you? Can you share with us what that looks like?
That really depends on the day and week. Over the last couple of years, we were spending A LOT of hours in the restaurants - to improve operations, streamline processes and really get our restaurants and brand. We announced in early 2019 that we were starting to franchise. Up until that time we were not ready to take that step, we wanted to make sure our restaurants could be run efficiently and profitably in a franchise system, and we needed to put in the time to do that. As of early spring, we sold our downtown store to two brothers that now operate it as franchisees - so we have spent a lot of time training them to run that very busy restaurant! We are also in the middle of finding locations for some other parties that are interested in joining our team as franchisees. We spend a lot of time on phone calls, sending emails and throwing ideas around each other - often late at night once our little guy is asleep. Gavin takes care of the operations, financials, franchise recruitment, leasing and a whole bunch of other stuff! And I focus on marketing, social media creation + management, community engagement. We complement each other well in our business which is so important. We both have a natural desire to work hard and make sure things are done properly. We do both really value incorporating physical activity in our days - every day. Being in the restaurant on your feet all day is physically demanding in itself, but we love getting to the gym, taking the dog out for a long walk or just trying to keep up with our kid.
Anything you’d like to share and let others know about LOVEPIZZA?
A big thing for me in this journey has been staying true to me, making sure that our business incorporates things that are important to us - quality, community, positivity and fun. You spend soooo much time working, you have to make it enjoyable. I often get asked how we choose organizations and causes to support. I am a big believer in 1) support those who support you. We had many regular customers that show up to our birthdays, charity weeks and diaper drives - it's important to support what they are passionate about too (as long as it aligns with you and your business of course). 2) get involved and help organizations that make you emotional, that make you cry, that make you want to tell your friends about, that get you to start hard conversations. You will make the most impact there. I am not a salesperson, I can't sell something that I don't believe in. What you see (and hear) is what you get with me. That is true for our business in every aspect.
As a business owner/entrepreneur what keeps you motivated? What or Who encourages you to keep going?
Gavin and I definitely motivate each other. Being a family business, we keep each other thinking, improving and growing because at the end of the day - it is our life and livelihood. We have built something that we are both very proud of and we want to grow it. As I mentioned, our son has grown up with this business and he is SO proud of it already at the age of 3. And that is so special to me. He loves to ask about our feature pizzas, he talks about his pizza shops with his friends and teachers and daycare and he really enjoys getting involved in our community stuff. That is a really neat thing to witness.
Tell us something you love about this city? Is there an area you like to explore? A favourite shop/business you regular visit? What do you love about it?
Edmonton is a small, big city. It has a great community spirit which is a big benefit to a local business. If you love your community, it will love you back. We have met SO many amazing small business owners and entrepreneurs in both Edmonton and St Albert through our business. We have always supported local when we can, but that is even more important now. We try to hit the markets as often as we can and when we get the time to go out for a family meal we go see our local pals. There are too many to name!
Your favourite getaway, when you need a break from your schedules?
We love Jasper for a quick getaway! We get to spend some time in Arizona at least once a year and love exploring the desert. And we love the big city energy of NYC and Toronto!
What do you hope to inspire in your own son through your business?
Our parents have always been role models of ours, none of them were entrepreneurs, but they all have amazing work ethic and integrity that we value so much. Both of my parents work corporate jobs. They worked long hours, travelled a lot and climbed up the corporate ladder - but they were (and still are) the best parents I could ask for. They were around for my extracurricular activities, my sports, helped with my homework and were there for me when I needed them. They were organized, communicated with each other well and we all just figured it out. Growing up in that environment made me want to provide that for our son. Some days are easier than others, but we wouldn't have it any other way. We figured it out and really appreciate the time that we have together as a family. We have made so amazing, one of a kind, irreplaceable memories as a family in our business that I will forever hold very closely because that's unique. Our son has been involved since day one and has learned so many things already, it's an informal education in business at a young age!
How can people connect with LOVEPIZZA ?
On Instagram & Twitter @lovepizza_yeg and lovepizza.ca on Facebook our website is www.lovepizza.ca
We have two locations one in St.Albert in Erin Ridge #335, 935 St Albert Trail or our downtown location at 10196 109 Street in Edmonton.
WE LOVE EDMONTON, is a weekly series highlighting local businesses, entrepreneurs, creatives, makers and artists. To be featured, please fill out the contact form.