Study finds independent pizza options in metro

by Vincent Staupe

A new study shows that residents of the Twin Cities have more options for ordering pizza than they might think.

Graduate students at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs teamed up with the Metro Independent Business Alliance on a study released Thursday that determined the majority of the seven-county metro area can be served by at least one independent pizza establishment.

“A lot of the responses we received were that people would love a list of all the local independents,” said graduate student Megan O’Meara, one of four study authors.

The study, titled “The Pizza Project!” sought to find out whether options exist for consumers to buy pizza at locally owned businesses versus large chain stores.

O’Meara said this study is important because independent establishments tend to reinvest more into the community and help increase the standard of living.

“We found that local independents return a larger percentage of their revenue to the local economy,” O’Meara said. “They are more likely to contribute to local charities.”

The study reported that local independent businesses return up to 68 percent of their revenue to the local economy, while chain stores only return about 43 percent.

Independents tend to hire employees locally, buy their supplies from other local establishments and help create a more cohesive community, O’Meara said.

Jim Rosvold, general manager of family-owned and operated Campus Pizza & Pasta, located in Stadium Village, said giving back to the community is one of the biggest draws of a local business.

“Our corporate office is here,” Rosvold said in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the restaurant.

“We derive our income from the University community,” Rosvold said. “And we tend to spend that money back in the University community.”

The centerpiece of the study was revealed Thursday at Snap! Pizza and Ice Cream in Northeast Minneapolis, where independent pizza establishments and their delivery routes were superimposed on a large map of the metro area.

Tim Dykstal, executive director of the business alliance and a Humphrey Institute graduate student, said that the study helps remove conventions about independent pizza establishments being hard to find.

“One specific idea with this project was to remove the excuse that some didn’t know there was a local alternative available,” Dykstal said, “or that it’s not as convenient as a chain restaurant.”

Dykstal said that idea can also be applied to other types of establishments that compete with larger corporate-run stores.

“Pizza is a fun way to press the point,” Dykstal said. “But next year we may do coffee shops or hardware stores.”

The partnership between the students and the business alliance was a result of a class called “Political Advocacy in the Public Interest,” in which the students are provided an option to pair with an organization to create a project, said graduate student Joseph Kurr, also a study author.

The members spent the past several months calling pizza places and studying research about the impact of independent businesses on the local economy.

Rosvold said established locally owned businesses among chains that “come and go,” is an indicator of how beneficial the former are for the community.

“I’ve been here 17 years,” he said. “You find me a chain manager that’s been here that long.”