Ivann Steward knows the value of creating a place where people feel welcome. When he arrived at Janesville, Wisconsin five years ago, he didn’t know anyone.
But now, he can call every customer who comes into his Toppers Pizza by name.
For 10 years, Steward was a tower technician at a Chicago-based electric company. He was constantly working on the road, living hotel to hotel. Eventually, he wanted a break from that life. He started going door-to-door looking for a new opportunity that would allow him to put down roots.
One fateful day, he walked into Toppers Pizza. “In Chicago, there are the places you’re used to—Giordano’s, Lou Malnati’s. This was my first time ever seeing Toppers,” said Steward.
“The manager handed me an application, and I’ve been here ever since.
After working at Toppers Pizza in Chicago, Steward was asked to take his outgoing and friendly management style to the restaurant location in Janesville, Wisconsin, where he’s now a General Manager.
“What I’ve grown to love is the atmosphere. It is something I came to have a passion for,” he said. “They blew me away when I first walked in—the chemistry of the management there.”
Steward enjoyed getting know the Toppers Pizza community through company-wide meetups. “That’s one of the major things I love about it, that it feels like a family,” he said. “Everybody’s a friend, everybody’s a family member. Through phone calls and emails, you get close. You get the feeling like, ‘We really want you here.’”
“Ivann is the epitome of the Toppers Pizza spirit. He makes the world feel like a smaller place for customers, and he makes his employees excited to go to work. Why order delivery when you can enjoy free entertainment along with your delicious dinner?” said Scott Iverson, Vice President of Marketing for Toppers Pizza.
Steward has also enjoyed watching and helping the Toppers Pizza brand grow and flourish. “I came in before Toppers Pizza really made a name for themselves,” he said. “I learned a lot about starting out small, just putting our name out there, staying local. Now we have over 70 stores. To be at a point where when someone asks where I work, and I tell them they say, ‘You work for Toppers Pizza?, I love that place!,’ and know that I’ve played a role in that… that’s a big impact.”
Wasting no opportunity to get to know his Janesville neighbors, Steward has partnered with local charities to sprinkle Toppers Pizza positivity even farther. “I’m starting a program with some schools and the YMCA,” he said. “Getting our team members involved with outreach to let people know that we’re here, and supporting our local community is important . It’s a major way for us to make a lasting connection with our neighbors.”
Steward embodies the Toppers Pizza culture through this dedication to the community. He provides people with a place to gather, catch up and dive into a delicious pizza.
Of course, said Steward, it doesn’t hurt that the food is “just really good.”
“I have had a lot of great customer experiences. That’s what makes us unique,” said Steward. “All the customers who come in, we know by name, we joke around, we sit down, have storytime, eat together. I’ve never experienced something like that. It’s mind-blowing. Everybody comes here to share that experience. And, being a Janesville transplant, that means a lot to me.”
When it comes to restaurants that are welcoming, the Janesville Toppers Pizza can’t be, well, topped. “You can come in here and request a song and we’ll play it,” he said. “We dance in the kitchen—it’s like a show almost. Especially when I’m working. I just love to have fun.”