Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ken's Pizza

It was 1961. A young 24 year old school teacher opened a small, one-man pizza restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma which was to be the birthplace of the growing, dynamic Mazzio's Corporation of today. That original restaurant -- named The Pizza Parlor -- delighted many Tulsans with the very first pizza they ever ate. The Pizza Parlor was in a tiny rented vacuum sweeper shop.  The school teacher was Ken Selby, who ran his new business virtually alone and after teaching a full day as well. Even in 1961 teachers needed a second job to support their teaching habit! Using his own recipe for sauce and mixing dough in a number 2 wash tub he opened November 11, 1961 and sold a 10 inch pepperoni pizza for $1.50. He used his daily sales to pay for the next days ingredients.

Four years of teaching all day and cooking pizzas until midnight, Selby formed a growing, loyal customer base. 1965 was a banner year of fateful decisions for Selby. He made pizza his full time job. He opened a second location, which exceeded the success of his first. Plus, the name changed to Ken's Pizza that solidly branded Selby's popular special recipe sauce and thin crust. Thin crust pizza is still my favorite!

In 1966 he sold his first franchise using his special sauce recipe and thin crust pizza dough. By 1975, his two starting stores steadily grew to a strong chain of over 100 company and franchise locations, and had spilled outside the Oklahoma.

Then, in the late 70's. Selby conceived a unique business approach to build more business for his already successful pizza enterprise. His idea called for more square footage of casual dining space, an expanded menu, thicker pizza served with much more meats and cheeses, sub sandwiches... along with a huge salad bar filled with more choices.

He decided he didn't like the name "Ken's" for an Italian eatery. He once read a book with a character named Maggio, so he decided to change the name of his business. One of his employees suggested he change the two "gg" in Maggio and use two "zz" like in the word pizza.

That new concept was Mazzio's Pizza. With a premiere in 1979, it was an instant hit that is still making sales and growth history. In ten years, the Mazzio's chain grew to over 150 locations in a dozen states, setting new industry benchmarks for sales along the way, it is still growing and ever changing. Selby was born and raised in Southern Oklahoma and is another Okie to make our state shine!

Those other guys:
1958 Frank and Dan Carney opened Pizza Hut in Wichita, Kansas
1960 Tom Monaghan founded Domino's Pizza and pioneered the delivery concept
1960 Michael Ilitch founded Little Caesars
1960 Pizza Inn was launched in Dallas

1 comment:

  1. After all these years, I'm still hunting down the pizza dough recipe he used. There is absolutely no other pizza like it, including Mazzios. My opinion, his first pizza was gold, just like his Mazzios idea.