New Name, Same Great Pizza: Brockway Pizzeria Ditches Franchise

BROCKWAY, Pa. (EYT) – Franchises give customers reliable menus and a specific taste profile while giving operators instant brand recognition. What it does not give owners or customers, however, is personality. That is why a franchise location in Brockway decided to go solo.

(Photo: The front of the renamed Glasstown Pizzeria on Fifth Avenue in Brockway.)

Dave Burley decided to take his pizza shop in a new direction. He had been a part of a franchise since opening back in the 1980s but thought that it was time to ditch the franchise and strike out on his own. He renamed his shop Glasstown Pizzeria.

“I like having freedom,” Burley explained. “We were told we had to be like the other franchise locations. We wanted to be able to continue to offer quality. We make our own pasta to order, nice gourmet burgers and even the sandwiches we make are different. Right now, we added the Texas Twister – a jalapeño-cheese hot dog wrapped in two slices of bacon, deep fried with our own homemade sauce. If we continued to be a franchise, we would not be able to do these things.”

Going from franchise to independent had a lot of legal hoops to jump through. They had to eliminate anything that looked like the old franchise – signs, menus, names of certain food items, and the old phone number. Burley cannot even say what franchise he was a part of.

The phone number created a headache on the transition day.

“We went from one day being one thing, were off for the Fourth, and then reopened as Glasstown,” Burley said. “But the phone number, it was supposed to be changed at 7 p.m. but the phone company changed it at 11:30 a.m. I was almost in tears. We couldn’t advertise anything until the Fourth, but my regulars came in and the place was packed. They said the number was wrong and they spread the word. The phones were ringing off the hook that night.”

Burley said that the community is one of the big benefits of being in Brockway.

“I did not want to go backward with the franchise,” Burley said. “It was an easy decision for me. The community was behind it. They said they don’t come in here because of what the sign says. As for the name, it was an obvious choice. We’re a glass town here. The factory is a major employer here. I wanted to incorporate something from the town. The town has been good to us.”

Residents are donating old Brockway Glass bottles for Burley to put up in the pizzeria. He has to get more shelves to display them all. He is also working with the historical society to get pictures of Brockway from the past. His new symbol grew out of the community’s glass past and a pizza magazine.

“In a magazine, I saw a picture of a pizzeria in New England that had a pizza with a lighthouse going up through it,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not have a glass bottle going up through the pizza?’ I knew a green bottle on the pizza would be our logo.”

Burley did a quick sketch of his design and took it to Xtreme Wear, who refined it when printing up his shirts. Then, he gave the image to Gresak Signs to put up the new sign on the side of the building. He already had a long relationship with them as they had put his old franchise signs up. He also had CW Graphics come up with some banners and yard signs. Gresak had to work on the Fourth of July because the franchise said all related insignia had to be gone by the following day.

This may seem like a lot of changes in a short period of time, but Burley said that change was common under the franchise system. These changes are ones he got to choose for himself.

“The pizza’s changed in the franchise many times in the past 30 years,” he said. “Here, we’re using fresh, quality ingredients. We use a red onion instead of a cheap onion. We use fresh mushrooms. A lot of the old favorites are there – and we’re adding some new items. Flatbreads are still there. We have great chicken and steak salads. All the pastas are still there and we hope to add more. Our burgers are second-to-none. We use certified Angus burgers on a brioche bun. We’ve made some changes. Customers aren’t going to miss anything. We still have our fresh, jumbo wings deep-fried to nice and crispy with all our flavors. And our pizza is delicious.”

Cost-saving may have driven other changes, but Burley chooses to make changes based on quality.

“I pay more for better quality meats and cheeses because I believe that quality brings people back,” he said. “I’m constantly looking for better-quality ingredients. For my pizza, we are using a really nice California sauce. The cheese I’m using is a top-of-the-line mozzarella/provolone blend. That’s one of the things that sets us apart: I always go for the quality. If I can’t do it right, I don’t do it.”

In the end, Burley is confident that the community will respond positively to the changes he made. In fact, he has not seen a drop in sales.

“It’s been busy,” he said. “You’ll have that initial bump up because people think you’re a different place because you changed your name. But the community is supporting us. The town is great. If you’re making good food, they’ll come to you. The old franchise may open another corporate pizza store, but I’m not worried. I know the pizza business. This town is only so big, and people will continue to go to our local pizza places. They want to be loyal to family-owned places and not corporate places.”

The side of the renamed Glasstown Pizzeria on Fifth Avenue in Brockway.

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