Jordan DeCaro was always fond of taking trips from his home in Duluth, Minnesota to Minneapolis. And there was one tradition that he looked forward to more than any other- stopping at Toppers Pizza.
“Going to Toppers in Minneapolis was a huge tradition for me,” said DeCaro. “Whenever I was there, I just had to get it. I always craved it, it was unique and contagious.”
So with that craving in mind and already looking forward to his next investment idea, DeCaro, only 24 years old, decided it was time to bring Toppers Pizza to Duluth. With six years of experience in real estate, DeCaro felt comfortable with the business side of the plan, but decided to turn to his friend and former client Jon Matko for his own depth of experience in the restaurant industry.
“Jon went to Le Cordon Blue in San Francisco and more recently served as head chef at the Hearthstone Café,” said DeCaro. “He brings an incredible level of restaurant experience to our partnership, and he shares my same excitement and passion for the brand.”
DeCaro and Matko (42) may be young, but they are convinced their experience and knowledge of their home market in Duluth will translate to big things. In fact, the pair has already signed on to bring three Toppers stores to the area.
“Our initial plan is to open the first two locations here in Duluth with the third coming right after in Superior, Wisconsin,” said Matko. “Duluth has a diverse and unique demographic, we know Toppers is going to be a great fit.”
The first location is already set for 1231 East Ninth Street in Duluth, just down the road from the University of Minnesota Duluth, with an opening date likely in March of 2018. DeCaro and Matko are already in talks for the second Duluth location, and then expect it to be another 12-18 months for their spot in Superior.
“We are still in the early stages of our first three stores,” said Matko. “But already we are thinking ahead to 7-8 locations when it is all said and done.”
That aggressive growth plan makes sense when you consider the recent success of Toppers Pizza. The Whitewater, Wisconsin-based brand is on pace to open 16 new restaurants in 2017, with 20 more expected for 2018 as the company works towards a goal of 200 units by the year 2020.
It was that boldness and passion from the Toppers leadership team that eventually convinced DeCaro and Matko the opportunity was the right one for them, despite some initial hesitation.
“It took me six weeks to decide it was right for me, and on the long drive from Duluth to Whitewater I still was not 100%,” said DeCaro. “But as soon as I sat down with Founder and President Scott Gittrich at that discovery day and saw the incredible environment and level of support, I was sold.”
Though they are still early in the process of setting up their first three locations in the Duluth area, Matko and DeCaro already have a clear sense of what they need to do to be successful.
Said DeCaro, “We just want to have fun and kick butt.”