Ron Berger, Figaro’s CEO and Greg Hessler, owner/operator Lakebay Figaro’s Pizza. Photo courtesy Figaro’s Pizza.

Ron Berger, Figaro’s CEO and Greg Hessler, owner/operator Lakebay Figaro’s Pizza. Photo courtesy Figaro’s Pizza.

Figaro’s Pizza co-owners Don and Ann Stolz and Greg and Cassie Hessler were selected for the company’s Franchisee of the Year award in October. The Oregon-based Figaro’s Pizza chain, with over 30 locations clustered in the Pacific Northwest, cites Key Center Figaros’s Pizza franchise for being hard-working team players with a positive, can-do spirit, excellent customer interactions, sales and focused contributions to community efforts. 

When Stolz Northwest constructed the new Food Market complex in Key Center, the group decided a pizzeria would fit nicely in the new building. Figaro’s was chosen for its selection of menu offerings and the company’s smaller size. The Key Center Figaro’s opened in August 2013.

“We’re not just the fifty-thousandth store that’s gone in for this big corporate chain,” said Greg Hessler, Stolz Northwest’s director of franchise operations. “It feels a lot more homey.” Hessler was elected to the Figaro’s National Advisory Board in 2015 representing the area’s franchise owners.

According to Hessler business was a little slow at first but has grown consistently as Figaro’s has become more integrated with the area. “You get involved with one group, then somebody in that group knows about this other group that has a need…it is that sense of getting more and more involved in the community.” 

Over the past five years, Hessler said the Key Center Figaro’s has also had the chance to get to know individual customers better, which Hessler said has a big impact in a small community. Simple things like remembering names and usual orders have helped to make customers feel more at home. “People respond to that,” he said.

Although the KP can be easy to navigate for longterm residents, the geography and infrastructure can make pizza delivery a challenge. Something as simple as following customer directions can be difficult when residents are more familiar with landmarks than official road designations. 

“You may not even know street names, you just know it’s your fifth turn after this big rock next to the Apple Sign,” said Hessler. “It gets challenging. In the winter it’s even more so.” 

Additional issues were raised this summer when Pierce County restructured Key Peninsula’s address system. The team at Figaro’s had to update many of their saved directions and deal with new inconsistencies in computer-based navigation. Although Hessler says the transition was difficult, he was grateful to Figaro’s customers for their assistance. 

“The community jumped on board and helped us update all of our accounts, and were very patient during all the hiccups we had in trying to get those deliveries out.”

Hessler is also proud of his restaurant’s community outreach. Earlier this year, the Key Center Figaro’s partnered with Camp Seymour to fundraise for fifth-graders to attend an outdoor education camp. The restaurant also donated pizza to a group of first-graders at Evergreen Elementary School who surpassed their academic goals. 

“It’s fun to get more involved with the school district, with the individual schools, and we’re looking for more opportunities to do that,” said Hessler. Figaro’s also works through the company’s charity arm, HELP (Helping Education through Love and Pizza). HELP is funded by a percentage of franchise sales, and awards grants to schools near Figaro’s locations. Hessler hopes to use some of these funds to support classroom improvements at Vaughn Elementary and sponsor field trips for KP students.

Hessler is pleased by Figaro’s continued success, and hopes to find new ways to improve service and give back to the Key Peninsula. “The big thing that we’re looking to do is to continue to be a part of this community, to be helpful in a way that’s not just filling bellies, but if there really are needs that are being missed, we want to know about it. We want to know if there’s something we can do as a partner to help improve this community.”

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