Mickey’s Pizza carves out rare slice of success

‘Whatever’s normal, it’s not happening here,’ says Sandi Stoyan (right) of the pizzeria she owns with her husband Mick (left). (Mississauga News/Claudio Cugliari)

By all odds, Sandi Stoyan’s business shouldn’t have succeeded. She and her husband Mick were turned down by major banks, had no advertising budget and opened their Mississauga pizzeria during a financial crisis.

Instead, the co-owner of Mickey’s Pizza landed a spot on Food Network Canada, leading to massive lineups and visitors from as far away as South Korea.

How did this first-time restaurateur and her premium pizza business located “in the middle of nowhere” near Clarkson manage to do it?

“People just love us,” Stoyan told YourMississaugaBiz.com, citing the city’s 95 per cent failure rate for restaurants open less than a year. “Whatever’s normal it’s not happening here.”

In business for just under three years, Mickey’s atypical approach is a 4 p.m. opening time, a refusal to sell individual slices, very few delivery orders and the use of only premium or local ingredients for their food. Stoyan estimated her largest pizza, the jumbo Killer King Dragon, is stacked so high with meat, cheese and other toppings that it weighs seven pounds.

On top of that, Stoyan said half of her customers don’t live in Mississauga, regularly traveling from places like Owen Sound, Barrie, Scarborough and even Los Angeles.

“Our business is completely built on word of mouth,” Stoyan explained.

Still Stoyan’s personal financial investment, approach to quality and friendliness paid off. In addition to regulars’ recommendations, Mickey’s loyal following is reflected online, where the restaurant has a 91 per cent approval rating on the website UrbanSpoon.

That led to an episode of the popular television show You Gotta Eat Here! filming at the restaurant last July. The episode aired on Food Network Canada last Friday.

In anticipation of post-show crowds, Stoyan doubled capacity by putting in new ovens and fridges, trained extra staff, and increased supplies, despite a space roughly 900 square feet in size.

But demand for the company’s preservative- and chemical-free Chicago-style deep dish pizzas, thin crust pizzas and sandwiches was so high Stoyan ran out of an entire week’s supplies in less than two days. “There was a lineup outside, a car accident in front and everything was gone,” she said breathlessly. “And most people waited about two hours for their food.”

Stoyan attributed Mickey’s success to a few factors. Her pizza-addicted husband Mick grew up with parents who ran a restaurant. Prior to opening the pizzeria, Stoyan and Mick ran a hearing aid business for 20 years. The couple always ate pizza wherever they traveled — during 10 trips to Italy and places like China and Egypt.

And at Mickey’s, the focus isn’t on cost-efficiencies, profits or ensuring maximum return-on-investment, but rather through simply beating the competition. “If you want cheap and crappy, it is everywhere,” Stoyan said simply.

For the staff at Mickey’s, it’s important that every pizza that goes out the door is the very best one they can create. “Every one of them has got to look beautiful, that you would want to take home, be proud of and want to eat yourself,” Stoyan said.

Stoyan said this daily devotion to a “job done right” and a full understanding of the ingredients in her products is also crucial to her restaurant’s long-term success.

“When you come to the table with a commitment to quality, one bite at a time, one person at a time, and doing your very best, you get there,” she said. “You don’t get there overnight, but once they taste the product they know you’re being truthful and they’ll go out and tell other people.”

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