It’s mid afternoon at Pieology in Edinburg. The lunch rush has thinned out, yet the build-your-own pizza restaurant is still busy with mostly Millennial-aged customers.
Come back the next day in the noon hour. It will likely be employees from the nearby hospital and medical offices on Trenton Road who are enjoying their break and lunch at Pieology. In the evening hours, families with young children often push the tables together at the restaurant. It then turns into a mini-community gathering point.
Juan Garza and Agustin Guzman are the owners/operators of Pieology. While they are franchisees, the two entrepreneurs take great pride that a customer wouldn’t be able to determine that in walking in. They are fervent believers in the local first concept. This is when a franchise adapts to the recommendations of community-based business people who know their markets.
Knowing Who They Are
The local touches at their Edinburg restaurant near the intersection of Trenton and Business 281 are evident. An outsized Texas map hangs on a brick wall with inspirational quotes. Employees wear Pieology shirts with color themes tied to favorite professional and college football teams.
There’s the style of flooring and televisions hanging from the ceiling. A small bar is available for customers waiting for their orders. The look is localized, which Garza and Guzman were largely successful in getting the franchise to agree to when it comes to the appearance and décor of the Edinburg restaurant. The local operators also insisted on using Rio Grande Valley-based companies instead of out-of-area businesses recommended by the franchise. Local businesses were used for signage, general contracting, architectural drawings and kitchen equipment.
“We don’t do cut and paste,” Garza said. “We believe in the market and going local first.”
Guzman calls it “knowing who you are and when you’re going to speak out” in negotiating with a national franchise in adding local elements. Structured model elements may work well elsewhere but they may not resonate in a market that has border and Texas culture sensibilities.
Making It Work
The recommendations of the two entrepreneurs have clicked since Pieology opened in Edinburg in 2018. The local franchise has since enjoyed some of the best sales numbers among Pieology restaurants nationally. Garza and Guzman are preparing to open a second site in McAllen in early 2020. The California-based franchise is now turning to the Valley businessmen for advice in building and opening new restaurants in other parts of Texas.
Their business acumen extends into real estate and consulting. Their AON Group parent company stands for “ALL-OR-NOTHING” as a testament to their belief in community and local knowledge.
“In the end, we’re both entrepreneurs,” Garza said of himself and his partner, Guzman, who are both natives of Mexico. “We like to build things.”
As customers enter and leave the Edinburg restaurant, Guzman offers friendly greetings and words of thanks for visiting the personalized pizzeria that includes a unique gluten-free cauliflower crust. The big Texas map hovers with a quote that sums things up.
“There’s no better feeling than a warm pizza box on your lap.”