I rolled out of bed early on a Thursday morning and slouchedoff to my 8:30 class of Entrepreneurial Dynamics. As warm coffee slowlyawakened my senses, our guest speakers came in the door. The owners of New YorkExpress Pizza (NYEP) were aimed to advise us all of the difficulties and joysof owning a small business. .
The character of Ethan Ortega woke me up much morethan my coffee did. The simple garb of a plain red tee shirt did not do justiceto his complex New York personality. A big mouth accompanied Ethan’s big hopesand dreams for the small pizzeria he recently started in Sioux Falls.
From ageseven, Ethan had been making pizza crust, sauce, and breads with his grandpa inone of the oldest pizzerias in the state of New York. His ideals from that NewYork pizzeria transferred over to the Midwest as he began his new businessseven months ago.
A pizzeria to Ethan, and any New Yorker, is “a place for yourfellow man to gather and break bread.” It was an idea that I had never heard.To me, a pizzeria was simply a place to grab a greasy piece of pizza. I wasintrigued from that point on.
He andJamie Small, the other owner and a mid-westerner, continued to discuss theirunique management style and how their ideals have lived on through difficulttimes. Over the fourth of July this past summer, they were having a largecustomer appreciation night. Every menu item, yes every single item, wascompletely free of charge (no purchase required). As the night finally began toslow down, a bottle rocket got lodged between a dumpster and NYEP’s back wallon their old location on Minnesota. After a devastating fire, only a few shortmonths after opening, Jamie and Ethan found their hard work in ashes. However,instead of letting the situation dishearten the owners, they decided to honorthe memory of Ethan’s grandfather and continue the business. Within the nextweek, they found a new location downtown. A week after securing the location,they were open again for business, and it was better than ever!
Thedowntown location hosted a new group of clientele. The downtown businessmen andwomen were introduced to this unique pizza experience. NYEP is a place offamiliarity, maybe the closest thing Sioux Falls has seen to resembling theshow Cheers, or at least that was theway it was described to us in class. So, I had to see if the hype andexcitement oozing from the owners actually measured up.
Walkinginto the downtown pizzeria for lunch that afternoon was a very uncharacteristicmove on my part for anyone who knows me. Health and nutrition drive mylifestyle, however, the larger-than-life personality of NYEP’s Ethan and Jamiedrove me to order a classic slice of New York style cheese pizza. With a ten percentstudent discount, the $1.70 slice was definitely above average, though not asearth shattering as Ethan would have had me believe. The dough, the signaturedifference between a Midwest and New York pizza, was spectacular though. With adoughy, thick, homemade bread feel, it told a story of a hand crafted, handtossed flour concoction that set the slice apart from its competitors. Theexperience was also unique to any other pizza place in Sioux Falls. The smallfeel of the business space let my imagination wander to a busy New York blockand the personalities of the employees fit the description of the Big Apple (muchfriendliness with a bit of attitude and spunk).
Overall, though I will not be rushing back to NYEPagain soon to break my healthy habits, I will continue to recommend thepizzeria to anyone who desires a unique pizza experience. Ethan and Jamie didan awesome job of sharing the journey of their business to our class. A greatguy from New York ringing true with the midwest values of brotherhood andhonest work make for a great business ideal. If interested, New York ExpressPizza is located at 309 S. Phillips Avenue and is open for in house pizza ordelivery from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11:00 a.m.to 3:00 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Give them a call at 605-271-9009 during your next latenight study session to see if a slice of New York’s finest truly lives up tothe reputation that has preceded it!