One pizza maker’s journey into the business after “analysis paralysis”
I opened up a pretzel vending business in 2017 after finding a gourmet pretzel from San Diego Pretzel company. I acquired an old school pretzel cart from the guy who used to sell pretzels at the Pasadena Rose Parade. Not 100 percent sure what or where was next, my wife suggested, “Why don’t you sell pretzels at the Breweries?” Genius!
We sold pretzels from San Diego to Sacramento and many breweries in between. As a big craft beer fan, it was a great gig. Beer and Pretzels are a perfect match. I also specialized in homemade mustard, flavored mustard blends and eventually several cheese sauces. It was going great, then Covid hit. The brewery business in California was closed for on-site consumption and events. I was out of business.
After re opening, I knew my model had to shift and grow. Selling “snacks” for $4-$6 dollars was fun, but not very lucrative or even profitable some days. I decided making pizzas was next to get that average price up to $16-$20. Beer and Pizza are also a natural pairing, plus it’s a meal!
I went all in on learning the pizza profession. I attended Pizza Expo in Las Vegas and nerded out, learning so much from the stars of the pizza world. I listened to almost 100 podcast episodes. I learned about different doughs, oven types, tomato manufacturers, cheese and so many stories about people rising in the pizza world. I already had a great game making home pizza, but I knew so little about the logistics of going pro for the public. In preparation to going back to the breweries, I followed a suggestion to donate pizzas to a local cause. I did a dozen pop-up events in front of my house to fundraise for my son’s high school football team.
I raised almost $2,500 for the program, got some great experience and received extremely good feedback on my pizza. Several neighbors suggested a local market had a pizza oven that no one was baking in. After talking to the owner of Jackson Market I started making pizza in their wood fired oven.
Some good deeds do go unpunished!
For the last several months now, I have operated Market Pizza by Drew Butler and it has been life changing. As a longtime excellent home cook, I never wanted to make my passion into a profession for fear of it turning into “work.” And I’m sure you all know the saying, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s absolutely true. I’m doing what I love, and my customers are loving my pizza. The plethora of positive feedback has filled my tank abundantly; more than anything else I’ve ever done. I now live for it, and it has made me very happy.
Of course, any business owner knows it is hard work with long hours that you wouldn’t trade for anything. I trained my son and he improved rapidly. To work beside him was a highlight of parenting. Truly. The pizza world has amazing people, community and consumers. It’s a fantastic industry that I’m blessed to part of.
In closing, may I suggest starting your dream, your passion today. It took me way too long to start while doing “homework” and investigating, etc. All of that is fine but can lead to analysis paralysis. In reality, dreams don’t start tomorrow; dreams begin right NOW! Go for it. Today.
DREW BUTLER is owner-operator of Market Pizza.