Sep 30, 2010 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Ryan Novak, 21, came on as owner of the Chocolate Pizza Company in July after working under Bonnie Hanyak, the store’s founder, since age 15. A student of Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, Novak had ambitious plans for the company since day one. He plans to open a second chocolate shop in Manlius, with a grand opening scheduled for Oct. 1.
Eagle Observer: Before we talk about the new store, tell me, what’s it like owning a chocolate shop?
Ryan Novak: It’s awesome. Every morning you get to come in, you get to make chocolate for a living. So, nothing’s better than that. It’s great because you get to manage, you get to put your business skills to use. You get to take care of inventory, orders, customers, vendors, banks. It’s just great. I love it.
EO: How has business been in your first three months?
RN: It’s been excellent. We’re up about 11 percent. These news articles that have come out have been great publicity for us. A lot of people say, ‘I’ve always known about you, but I didn’t know how to stop in or when to stop in. But I read your article and I wanted to come in.’ It’s been great. We’ve had a lot of new customers recently. We have new corporate clients, which has helped us a lot. We’re helping them with their corporate gift giving. And the website … we are getting internet orders every day and looking to build on that.
EO: And it’s a new website.
RN: It’s a new website, yes. (chocolatepizza.com)
EO: In July you said you’d like to open at least one new store within the year.
EO: It’s September. Why move ahead so fast?
RN: The location (8188 Cazenovia Road) was perfect. It was in a great spot in Manlius. Everyone out there says that they wish we were closer to them. So we just said, you know, we should go with it. We got an opportunity. This is one of the things we want to do, let’s do it.
EO: Do you expect to have any competition in Manlius? Kimberly’s Ice Cream is right down the road.
RN: Kimberly’s, I mean, it’s an ice cream shop. We’re not really competing in a direct sense with Kimberly’s. They draw the ice cream crowd, we want to draw the gifts and chocolate crowd.
EO: For the first time in 22 years, the Chocolate Pizza Company will open up shop in a place that doesn’t already know what a chocolate pizza is. How do you approach that?
RN: Our marketing is going to have to be specific in the fact that, people hear chocolate pizza, sometimes they think chocolate on dough, chocolate on cheese … not the best impression we want. So we have to design a nice marketing strategy where we can get the chocolate pizza out, use the Food Network clip … and get them to know that it’s chocolate with an English toffee.
EO: In your best words, what is a chocolate pizza?
RN: A chocolate pizza is premium chocolate with English toffee ground into it very fine. On top it has pecans, walnuts and almonds, and it’s covered with a white chocolate drizzle.
EO: But you don’t have to get the nuts on top.
RN: You don’t have to. It comes without nuts as well, which is my favorite.
EO: Does the mystery of not knowing what a chocolate pizza is bring a lot of people into the store?
RN: It does. A lot of people stop in and say, ‘I saw your sign, I had to stop in. What is a chocolate pizza?’ And that’s when we hit ’em with a ‘Boom, here you go. Chocolate with an English toffee.’ And they’re customers for life.
EO: How will the new store compare to the shop in Marcellus?
RN: It will just be a retailer. We won’t be making chocolate there.
EO: Are you unleashing any new products with the opening?
RN: We might. There might be something secret that’s coming out when the store opens. We might have a thing or two new, a new special, who knows.
EO: Maybe a chocolate calzone?
RN: (laughs) Hey, goes with the line. That’s not a bad idea.
EO: You still have a semester of college to finish, correct?
EO: How are you going to pull this off?
RN: I scheduled my classes to allow me the most time back in the store. It’s definitely a challenge to balance both, but I know I can do it. Plus, I have a great team in place at the store to keep things rolling when I’m away.
EO: Do you have someone lined up to supervise the Manlius store?
RN: Yes. The former owner, Bonnie, is actually really excited about working out there.
EO: What does Bonnie think of all this?
RN: She loves it. She said it’s something she’s always wanted to do for 22 years, but she was just never able to do it. So now that I’m able to do it, she loves it.
EO: After this, what’s next for the Chocolate Pizza Company?
RN: After this big opening we’re gonna hunker down and get ready for Christmas, start making everything up. Getting our marketing campaign out there, getting our name out there and … just getting ready for Christmas.