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You and the Economy

Old Town Pizza shares insights for surviving

Owners make changes during tough times
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: This is the first installment in an occasional series about how locals are doing in the economy. Ethan O’Hagan, general manager of Old Town Pizza, in Auburn, sat down with the Journal, Thursday, to share the challenges and triumphs of running a small-business under the current economic climate. O’Hagan operates the business for his in-laws Reese and Tammy Browning, who own Old Town Pizza. Q: What have you guys done to adapt Old Town Pizza to a rough economy? A: “We’re focusing on consistency to ensure that we’re providing the same level of service and quality without spending more than we need to.” Q: Has it been difficult to survive and compete why or why not? A: “We had a rough couple years and the family all pulled together. A lot of our family and extended family were brainstorming, too. We had fresh ideas and fresh faces. We keep it fun. We keep it consistent. We wiped out a booth that was awkward about right here and turned it into a bar, lobby and waiting area. It’s a fun place to hang out while you wait. I think people come back for our staff, environment and not just our food. The same food with a boring staff or jerks could not be as successful.” Q: What advice would you offer other business owners about thriving in a rough economy? A: “Keep it fun. Surround yourselves with quality energetic people you enjoy. Promote team players from within. Get involved in your community to contribute and to keep your brand constantly visible. Keep your place clean!” Q: Does it seem like the worst part is over, or do you still feel the effects of the recession? A: “We are very pleased with sales levels, as they have rebounded nicely over the last few years. Food inflation and other cost pressures are a concern and we manage them the best we can.” Q: How do you build a loyal customer-base? A: “Except in very few cases, we only discount our loyal customers and we do it via e-mail. This keeps some costs down, so we can maintain our high standards, while taking care of you (who) we depend on. “ Q: How do you stay competitive against corporate pizza chains? A: “Our commitment to high quality and fresh ingredients maintains our food value, so we don’t feel we have to price match. We just resumed free delivery and we’re excited about the boost in business that may bring.” Q: How does OTP give back to the Auburn community? A: “We love living and working in Auburn and want to do everything we can to keep Auburn the great place it is. We are active with the Old Town Business Association, the Old Town Auburn Preservations Society, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce and the Placer County Visitors Association. We sponsor and/or participate in many community events such as the Auburn Family 4th, the Wine and Food Festival, the Community Festival, the Auburn Golf Classic, the Rotary Community BBQ, the Lions Celebrity Chefs and the Seniors First Beer and Wine Fest, just to name a few. My father-in-law was a member of the Leadership Auburn Class of 2010 and I am currently attending the current Leadership Auburn Class that will graduate in 2012.” Q: What do you enjoy about being a business owner? A: “I love knowing people around town and getting thanked in grocery stores for last night’s dinner — that kind of recognition. That so many of our regulars are three, four times a week friends. The excitement of the beer-of-the-month we started last year and watching kids grow up in our place is very cool. Every member of our family and extended family has at one time or another contributed to the success of our business. We enjoy working together and take pride in what we have been able to accomplish so far.” Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com. ______________________________________________________ You the economy The Auburn Journal is writing an occasional series about how locals are doing in the economy. If you have a story to tell, contact us at ajournal@goldcountrymedia.com or call (530) 852-0231.