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How Calvin Courtok Went from Making Romeo’s Pizza at Age 15 to Becoming the Brand’s Youngest Franchisee

The emerging pizza brand works hard to provide scalable opportunities for both employees and franchisees, creating a family-like and community-driven environment across all of its locations.

By Luca Piacentini1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 11:11AM 11/05/21

Romeo’s Pizza, the 50-plus-unit emerging pizza franchise out of Medina, Ohio, is one of the most sought-after new franchise opportunities in the pizza segment. After breaking sales records in both 2019 and 2020, the food-first pizza brand has already signed 30 new franchise agreements this year thanks to its franchisee-centric opportunity, community-oriented business model, wide-open market availability and impressive sales trajectory. But the Romeo's Pizza team is not interested in partnering with just anyone — they want prospects who are interested in joining a family and growing with the brand. Perhaps no one fits this description better than the brand’s youngest franchise owner, Calvin Courtok.

From Tossing Dough to Franchising

Courtok started as a Romeo’s employee at the age of 15, cooking pizzas and making dough at the original Medina location. 

“I grew up in Medina and lived there my whole life,” said Courtok. “When I was 15 or so, my mom had started working at the original Romeo's, and I had an opportunity to get a job there. From the moment I started, I fell in love with making pizza, and the more people told me how great the pizza was, the more it gave me a drive to do even more with the brand.” 

When the COVID-19 first hit, Courtok says he was contacted by CEO Ryan Rose to see if he wanted to start making pizza dough at a location in Brunswick, Ohio. “I started working there and at another location, making dough at all three,” Courtok said. “When I turned 18, I was old enough to become a manager, and I started spending most of my time managing the Medina location, running the kitchen and learning about how to oversee the operations of a store.”

Courtok says he had always heard about the opportunity for franchise ownership with Romeo’s, but it wasn’t until Rose reached out and suggested he become an owner himself that he began looking into it seriously.

“I really loved working at Romeo’s, and I knew I always wanted to open my own business one day,” said Courtok. “After seeing all the different Romeo’s operations, I knew what it would take to own one myself, and I loved the idea. From there, I went and talked to the corporate team more about the opportunity, and officially signed in February of 2021.”

A Proven Business Model and Community-Driven Approach

One of the main factors that appealed to Courtok about the Romeo’s business model was the quality of the food. “I’ve always loved that Romeo’s made the dough fresh everyday,” he said. “As a business owner, I love the idea of serving the best food possible every time. Also, the sweeter sauce is amazing, and it is very impressive how freshly it is made — tomatoes picked and packed into the can in less than 10 hours and shipped straight to store. Also, the whole process seemed streamlined and easy-to-follow, and I knew I’d be able to teach other employees and help them grow.”

Additionally, Courtok was thrilled about joining such a community-driven company, a quality of the brand he saw firsthand while working in Medina.

“One of Romeo’s core values is to always be the ‘Local Pizza Champion,’” he said. “I’ve never heard of another shop using that kind of motto. That really stood out to me. When I was working at Medina, our general manager gave me the opportunity to make a bunch of pizzas for the Medina Creative Housing organization. We also partnered with local high schools, police departments, fire departments, etc. It always felt great to give back and make people’s day with a free pizza — everyone loves pizza! We are excited to continue that tradition with our location.”

A Bright Future Ahead

In October, a mere four years after originally joining the brand as an employee, Courtok officially opened the new Romeo’s Pizza location in Sylvania, Ohio, making him the brand’s youngest franchisee at the age of only 19. He opened it along with two other friends and fellow Romeo’s employees he met while working at the restaurant, Pat Lyons and Andrew Hanich.

“It feels great to be the brand’s youngest franchisee,” said Courtok. “It has been a lot of hard work, but I knew I couldn’t pass up on such a great opportunity. When we opened the doors the first day and started making pizza, it really hit me that I was making pizza at my own Romeo’s. It was a great feeling.”

Looking ahead, Courtok’s agreement is for three Romeo’s locations, and he says he and his partners hope to open as many as possible in the Toledo area. “We really want to be the Local Pizza Champions here and beyond,” he said. “Other than that, I’ve always wanted to own other businesses and expand my portfolio. The main goal is to continue helping other people and giving back to the community through the businesses.”

Rose says he couldn’t be more thrilled to see Calvin expand into business ownership. “Calvin has really grown up in the Romeo’s family, and that is why we know he is a perfect fit for our franchise opportunity,” he said. “Our franchisees are not just buying a store; they are joining a family. That’s something we take very seriously, so we’re looking for people who share our values — hard-working people who want to support their communities and take an active role in growing the brand with us. Calvin is the epitome of this attitude, and we are so excited to watch him grow as we continue to expand the brand.”

The initial investment range for a Romeo’s Pizza franchise is between $128,000 – $403,000 per unit including franchise fees, building improvement costs, training, equipment, operating cash reserves and any additional needs. To learn more about franchising with Romeo’s Pizza, visit