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Right in his Wheelhouse: Jimmy’s Egg founder goes for a slice of the pie
Rick Russell has lived in the Quail Creek area his entire life. He’s seen pizza concepts come and go at N. May Avenue and N. Hefner Road.
When Wheelhouse Pizza Kitchen approached him about leasing the former Pink Parrot restaurant at 11109 N. May Ave., he was excited to see a pizza place come back to the area. But the concept’s financial backer is what really caught his attention.
Jimmy’s Egg founder Loc Le came up with the by-the-slice pizza concept and passed it over to managing partner Michael Jones. Jones has been involved with Classen Grill and Lottinvilles Wood Grill, and is the owner of Flatire Burgers.
Le is the majority investor, with other financial partners involved, Jones said.
The menu features pizza by the slice, whole pizzas, wings, salads, sandwiches and desserts. They are Jones’ recipes, but the team helped narrow down the items. The pizzas are built on homemade dough.
“With this being counter service, the menu has to be streamlined and tight,” Jones said.
The restaurant opens Monday.
People will be able to order carryout items and pick them up at the drive-thru window. A text message will be sent when the food is ready. Jones said this technology is what he and the partners think will give them an edge in the competitive industry.
In the U.S., pizza is a $45.1 billion industry, according to a 2017 analysis by PMQ Pizza Magazine. But independent pizza restaurants struggled in 2017, according to the report. More than 1,200 independently operated stores closed in 2017, which was an increase from only 42 stores in 2016. Including chain operations, nearly 300 pizza stores closed in 2017, according to PMQ.
Wheelhouse’s vice president of marketing, Marilyn Ruggles, said the product’s affordability will help set it apart in the field. Daily slices are available for $3.79.
“Someone can try any number of slices because it’s low financial risk,” she said. “You don’t have to shell out a lot of money to try one large pizza.”
The slices will vary daily, with topping combinations expected to change frequently after the restaurant has gone through its existing menu.
“We think it will be a good neighborhood restaurant,” she said.
Jones said the entire family is invited to the eatery, including the family dog, which will be welcomed to enjoy pizza crusts on the patio.
If the N. May restaurant does well, then the goal is to open more. Jones said he has a lot of smart people involved with the concept, so they’ll be able to expand it into multiple locations if the time were to come.
“We’re looking forward to the potential to expand into other communities in Oklahoma City,” Ruggles said. “But it will depend on the community. If they think we’re serving good food at a good price, then the growth will come.”
For Russell, if Wheelhouse doesn’t work, having Le involved was reassuring. He knows Le will put another concept in the spot before the lease ends.