As an avid fan of pizza and food delivery, many have referred to Pizza Shuttle as “my kitchen” over the years. Sadly, that is not entirely unjust. Living minutes from the eastside restaurant, its not uncommon for our household to order food 2-3 times from Pizza Shuttle on a busy weekend. Many nights I have joined the throng of 2AM callers and heard the familiar voice saying, “Thanks for calling Pizza Shuttle. We will be right with you….”. In fact, I’ve heard the message so many times, I’d a better chance of reciting it than I would The Lord’s Prayer.
As one may suspect “the voice” belongs to one of the two owners, Mark Gold. Mark’s exactly what one might expect the pizza shop owner to be like; outgoing, casual with a big smile and a love for his job. Having grown up in Detroit next door to his business partner Lou Siecinski since the age of 6, the two friends were destined for the pizza business. Growing up, both worked various jobs in local pizza shops and chains in and around metropolitan Detroit. Since the age of 16, their goal was to have their own restaurant.
At the age of 20, the two decided to devote their time and efforts to launching their own store in the Midwest. As Milwaukee had no major pizza chains at the time, in 1985 the boys opened their first shop on the city’s north side. After several relocations, the two finally settled in at the current Farwell location in 1987.
The Farwell address, along with strong commitment to their product and employees has proven to be a great success for Mark and Lou. On average, Pizza Shuttle delivers 5-6K orders each week with an average order containing 4 separate items. To keep Pizza Shuttle rolling along, there are a staff of 80 full and part time employees.
When you speak with Mark and watch him interact with his staff, one can clearly see that he enjoys working with them. Mark will tell you that he probably has one of the most unorthodox crews possible. “Some of our staff are all pierced and tattooed. We may be the only place around that would hire them, but they do a great job for us.” says Gold. The mutual devotion is evident in the average number of years employs have been with the company; managers average 14 years with other workers averaging 5 years.
As for the menu, it has expanded and evolved over the years. Based on customer feed back, staff suggestions and personal interest, new items are tested and added if the “pass” every 6 months.
Being an independent business, Mark and Lou can make changes and adapt quickly to meet demands. Some things, like their most popular item, the southern BBQ chicken pizza, work well. Some things, like the fried pickles, don’t move and are stricken from the menu.
While the dip in the past year’s economy certainly didn’t help, Pizza Shuttle’s business has held steady. With a loyal customer base, expanded delivery area, on going daily specials targeted to the economically minded, 2009 ended up being a good year for the business. But as both men will tell you, there’s more to life than work. “You have to enjoy yourself. There’s no point in making money just to make it”, said Mark. “I get interested in all kinds of things. I might even tried gardening this summer”.
As a fan or local cuisine, Mark may try BBQ ribs from an inner city diner or even pizza from another restaurant (He says The Olive Pit also has a good pizza). Oddly enough, in all his time in Milwaukee, Mark dined at the late Pizza Man only once. “It was good food. They had a different clientele who was usually looking for something more formal than what we got. We’re definitely more casual.”
Not surprisingly, many of Mark and Lou’s interests link bring them back to Pizza Shuttle in one way or another. As an avid reader, years ago Mark came across a notice regarding the sale of some original Warhol paintings in New York. Not expecting to actually win, Mark made an winning bid on a signed Andy Warhol “Cow” painting. “I got it for a steal!” says Gold. In keeping with the pairs casual approach to things, this valuable, one of a kind painting now hangs prominently over the counter at their restaurant.
Whether you’re looking for lunch at 11AM or it’s 2AM, you’ve had a bit to drink (they don’t judge) and need sustenance, Pizza Shuttle is always there for you.