Chicago, IL —
After one year under new ownership, Pie Hole Pizza Joint will be celebrating its first anniversary of solid growth and community impact this February, while looking forward to a second year of dynamic change in the Boystown community.
"To this day, we still get customers coming in who didn't know we were here," said David Sowa, Kitchen Manager for Pie Hole. "And some of these people actually live on Roscoe. But they've been hearing the buzz."
That buzz, no doubt, is coming from all the changes taking place.
"First thing this year, we plan to create a cozy, little performance space," new owner Doug Brandt explained, "complete with a DJ booth and platform stage and lighting. It will be micro-scale, but we'll host performances like drag shows, live musicians, spoken word nights, house music events and karaoke."
There are also plans to open additional locations throughout Chicago over the next several years.
"We've identified four markets where we could easily drop the Pie Hole model as-is," Brandt explains, "neighborhoods where our marketing and image would be embraced without having to soften our edges too much."
The future is bright, but Brandt's efforts have already been recognized. Chicago Free Press
readers recently voted Pie Hole "Best Restaurant," and the Youth Pride Center honored Brandt for Pie Hole's commitment to gay youth organizations.
"Doug and the team and Pie Hole have been – and continue to be – incredible supporters of YPC," according to Frank Walker, founder and director of the Youth Pride Center. "Hosting our meetings, donating pizzas every Tuesday, hiring our youth – all these things have given the youth a reason to believe that there are people out there who care about them."
Brandt was always looking for a way to get involved in the community after he moved to Chicago over six years ago. Dismayed by the standard Halsted fare, he wanted to open a bohemian coffee bar that catered to the "hidden" gay community that doesn't fit the Boystown mold.
"As a regular gay guy, I quickly got over the pretense after I moved to Boystown," Brandt said. "I was bored. There was nowhere cool to go to just chill with a diverse group of people."
In 2006 Brandt was alerted to an existing business for sale. It wasn't a coffee shop, but with some paint and crazy thinking, the old Pie Hole could easily align with his vision.
From cosmetic changes to menu changes to customer service changes, Brandt has worked hard this year to put Pie Hole on the map. His most exciting emphasis has been on marketing.
"The ads," Brandt said, "yeah, those have been fun."
A series of simple but highly effective full-page ads and posters have generated much attention. Each one featuring some sort of double entendre, Pie Hole ads have taken full advantage of the suggestive name of the pizza joint.
Wednesday nights, for example, are home to "All-You-Can-Shove Pizza," a new twist on the classic all-you-can-eat. Pie Hole also brags about having "the best ten inches at 2am," referring to their late night hours, of course, and they feature half-price beer, wine and liquor on Monday nights.
"We were going to call it ‘Liquor in the Hole,' but we decided that was one step too far," Brandt joked.
"But truly, we are unbelievably grateful for the success and recognition this year," Brandt said. "It certainly helps fuel the momentum going into 2008."
"Yeah, this will be an exciting year," agrees Sowa. "I've worked here over four years, and Pie Hole is finally becoming what it should have been a long time ago."