Jay Jerrier’s classic rags-to-bitches story is one for the record books. The bored businessman quit his day job and turned into the Pope of Dallas Pizza almost overnight. Tim Rogers profiled Jerrier in 2011. In it, Jay admits he swears like a sailor, but he uses the e-word instead of the f-word so his parents wouldn’t get upset. Effin’ chicken.
Today we catch up with JJ, which wasn’t an easy task. He is a busy man. He runs a pizza empire, coaches two lacrosse teams, tweets, posts on Facebook, plays with his dogs, and picks obscure locations for pizza joints.
NN: I’m not going to mention anything about ranch dressing or your gimmicky ploy to get national attention, so before we get started let me ask you: How much impact do you think your marketing maneuver had on Hidden Valley?
JJ: I wish I could take credit for that being some masterful marketing maneuver. A friend of mine gave me that ranch dressing as a joke when we opened in 2011 and we put it up on the wall. It’s been up there for 3 years and someone posted a picture of it on Reddit and it went nuts – thankfully it was short-lived. I will say this, the Hidden Valley people can take a joke. They sent a really funny card and a “care package” to Zoli’s with a golden bottle of ranch dressing. We’ve been joking back and forth with them on the interwebs…so that’s been kind of fun.
NN: Fairview? You recently announced Cane Rosso will open in Fairview. I had to look it up. Do you realize there are only 8,000 people living there? That breaks down into 2,266 families. Is your goal to make money or headlines?
JJ: Yep…Fairview. Their town motto is “Keepin’ it Country!”. While Fairview proper is tiny, it is pretty much bordered by McKinney and Lucas, and Plano is pretty close. So it is pretty densely populated. We’ve been looking for an opportunity to test a suburban model. If it works, it gives us the opportunity to add a few more locations in the DFW area. It really came down to a few things: I lived there for 10 years, so we are still tied to that community; both the City and the Landlord REALLY wanted us there so the deal made sense (we got building permits in TWO DAYS vs 14 weeks or so in Dallas!!); we found some second generation space that will be a quick, easy, and cheap conversion (we hope to open by July provided our oven gets here in time); and our White Rock location was a good test run for the suburbs – tons of families, lots of insane kids (and this time the fountain/splash park is OUTSIDE of our space), weekend-heavy business. Our White Rock location has been really successful. We’ve been approached by a lot of landlords and EDCs in the suburbs that are all saying residents are tired of “chains”, which is why I think Park/Preston is hot again and people like Lockhart Smokehouse are also moving north.
NN: Did you know that over 25 percent of the population in Fairview is over 65 years old? Guess that means you’ll be delivering in Fairview. Is that a fair assumption?
JJ: I think that is skewed a bit because of Heritage Ranch…an “active” adult community out there with a really nice golf course. My parents used to live there before they moved to Florida like all seniors do. I already told them to tell all their friends that there will be no Senior Discounts or Early Bird Specials. We’ll be drawing most people from Allen/McKinney/Plano that hate the ride down to either White Rock or Deep Ellum. We won’t deliver Cane Rosso in the area – it just doesn’t hold up for delivery. If we open up a Zoli’s in the suburbs, we’ll definitely do delivery (landlords…let me hear from you!!).
NN: Moving on. What is the big deal with lacrosse? I see from your Facebook page that you coach lacrosse. Two teams? Why and who runs the freaking pizza business when you are loading the sticks, balls, and wickets into your car? Lacross is the one with wickets, right?
JJ: So about 30 years and a 100 pounds ago, I had a VERY average stint as a lacrosse player. I was really awful, but really enjoyed it. When my daughter, Emma, showed some interest in second grade, I was one of the only people that could throw and catch…so I kind of got sucked into it. It’s been really fun coaching the girls…though I am constantly trying to figure out a way to get out of actually coaching. It’s way too stressful…but it lets me spend a lot of time with my older daughter before she becomes a sullen, morose teenager. That’s part of the reason we’re still tied to the Allen area…Emma has been playing lacrosse with those girls for years and has a lot of good friends up there. We live in Dallas now but still play with them, and also play for our school team at Greenhill. She also plays for 2 club teams and we’ll get to travel to Denver, Vail, Austin, and Boston this summer. The girls and families are so nice and not insane like club soccer parents. There are almost no mothers with bedazzled velour jumpsuits or cowbells.
My youngest daughter is full throttle on competitive dance…like full “Dance Moms” style. She is like Ethel Merman Jr. I’m not allowed to post any videos of her dances until the dance season (yes, there is such a thing) is over. Stay tuned for that…it’s pretty awesome.
NN: Speaking of cricket. Carol Shih used to work here. I nicknamed her Cricket because she played cricket. You didn’t like Carol did you?
JJ: Carol? I thought she was fine! I think the first time I spoke with her I was joking around a bunch and she didn’t know/assume I was joking. Tim told me I had to like her.
NN: Zac or Tim?
JJ: Well Zac is bearded, so that immediately makes him suspect…but also a potential hipster, which is our target demographic. But I have to go with Tim…because he made me drink beer and say curse words in an interview he did with me before we opened Deep Ellum. I need to search my old laptops to find this email my parents sent me after they read that article. They were very concerned that I was working so blue. Tim begged me to let him publish it, but for some reason I said no. It was gold.
NN: When you aren’t coaching, sleeping, driving, or tweeting, you post pictures of your dogs on Facebook. Tell us all about your red puppy dogs.
JJ: We have three dogs now…in a very tiny house. They drive my wife nuts but help keep me sane. Delia is a rescue German Shorthaired Pointer that we got when she was around 1. We think she is around 6 or so now. Palinka is a Vizsla that is 7 that a dear friend gave to us when she retired from the show ring. And I really went insane and got a puppy last fall. Gipsy Danger is a 9 month old Vizsla that keeps everyone on their toes. All dogs, past and present, have pizzas named after them at Cane Rosso. Zoli’s is named after the first Vizsla my wife and I owned. Check out Texas GSP Rescue or Texas Sporting Breed Rescue on Facebook for lots of available dogs. If I catch my wife at a weak moment, I may try to sneak a German Wirehair Pointer into the mix just to even things out. Anyone that becomes an approved foster or adopts a GSP from TX GSP rescue will get a $50 Cane Rosso gift card…so get adopting!
NN: Pretend like you are on Death Row in Oklahoma. It’s the day before your lethal injection. The warden, who is chowing down on a slice of Zoli’s soppressata, walks up to your cell and says, “Jerrier, here is a piece of paper and a pencil. Tell us what you want for your last supper and don’t say pizza. You can’t have pizza.” Waddaya write?
JJ: I would make Jeff Bekavac make me a cheeseburger from Neighborhood Services with an extra side of Voodoo Sauce, make Chris Dahlander from Snappy Salads make me a high maintenance build-your-own salad with Jalapeno Ranch, and a sour cream apple pie from Hibiscus. Maybe a Roast Pork Italian with sharp provolone, broccoli rabe and a fried long hot from Tony Luke’s or an East Coast Special from Dagwood’s Deli in Stamford, CT (thin shaved ham and turkey with iceberg, thick tomatoes and bleu cheese dressing on a fresh kaiser roll). And I’d still get a square slice from Prince St. Pizza in NYC…because you couldn’t stop me.
NN: Thanks for stopping by SideDish. Do you have any questions for me?
JJ: Marry One. F One, Kill One: Jack Perkins, Brian Luscher, Chad Houser.
NN: First, apologies to all three wives. Let’s see. I’d mary Brian Luscher for two reasons: he can cook and I’d demand he share Courtney in the deal. I’d F Chad Houser because right now I’m the only person in town who hasn’t. I’d kill Jack Perkins so I wouldn’t have to F or marry him.