Pizza chain opens up in Ann Arbor

Katherine Pekala/Daily
Toppers franchise owner Mahmoud Baydoun serves a pizza at the newly-opened store on East William Street. Buy this photo

By Danielle Stoppelmann, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 28, 2013

Earlier this month, East William Street welcomed its third pizza restaurant within a two-block radius.

Toppers Pizza, a nationwide fast-food pizza franchise, opened its 50th store — the first in the state — on 607 E. William Street.

The restaurant is located next to New York Pizza Depot, which has been in Ann Arbor for 16 years, but Toppers franchise owner Mahmoud Baydoun said he isn’t worried about the competition. Toppers offers made-to-order pizza, quesadillas, wings, sandwiches and “topperstix,” which Baydoun said is their specialty item.

“It’s a completely different concept, different food,” Baydoun said, referring to the breadsticks that come in flavors such as taco, cheese and bacon.

The grand opening for the new restaurant will be Feb. 14. Baydoun said employees will begin guerilla marketing in the area surrounding the restaurant, handing out flyers and free samples.

“As of now, just being here and people walking by, we’re doing pretty decent,” Baydoun said.

He anticipates a lot of business to come from take-out and delivery because of heavy foot traffic and fast delivery times. If orders are not delivered within 30 minutes, customers will receive a “sorry card” for 15 percent off their next order, Baydoun said.

“Our delivery times are head and shoulders above everybody else’s,” Baydoun said. “I don’t think anybody can beat our delivery time.”

Toppers is a popular restaurant in Wisconsin, with 29 stores in the state. Baydoun said he wants to spread the brand in Michigan.

“We want to just fill Michigan up with Toppers, if possible,” Baydoun said. “I hope the kids understand the culture of Toppers; it’s more than just food ... It’s the ‘go-to’ place in Wisconsin, so hopefully we can build that culture here and have people excited about the brand and the food.”

Co-owner of NYPD Domenico Telemaco said his restaurant has an advantage over Toppers because NYPD sells pizza by the slice.

Telemaco said “thin crust pizza, better quality (and) being established here for 16 years” are all factors that will help NYPD maintain their customer base.

“I don’t know if (Toppers) will have any impact on my business because we make very different products,” Telemaco said. “We both make pizza … I think we make different kinds of pizza.”

Telemaco said he has a loyal customer base that will keep NYPD busy for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve been here for long enough that people know us in town,” Telemaco added. “One quality about us is that the product has never changed — it’s been consistent.”

LSA senior Robert Bowen said he goes once a week to NYPD, where he enjoys eating and studying.

“I think the food is good, and it’s reliable, and I think they’re friendly here,” Bowen said.

He said eating at NYPD is an “experience” beyond just having a meal.

“(The employees) go the extra mile. They’re really friendly — it’s more of a personal environment than a lot of the other stores,” Bowen said.

Bowen said though he will remain loyal to NYPD, he thinks the other pizza restaurants on the street will succeed because of the high demand for pizza in the area.

LSA junior Nadeem Persico-Shammas said he also goes to NYPD once a week and, though he enjoys eating there, he’s open to trying the new restaurants in the area.

Persico-Shammas said he would change his routine of going to NYPD — which, according to him, is the “best pizza in town” — to try Toppers.

With NYPD, NeoPapalis, Cottage Inn and now Topper's, East Williams Street is becoming the "pizza row" of downtown. Though the three stores compete to some extent, NeoPapalis owner Joseph Sheena said the variety of Italian fare should be good for both customers and business owners.

“As long as you keep your distance as to what everybody else is doing and you have you’re own niche, then I think having more diversity on this street is actually good."

Follow Danielle Stoppelmann on Twitter at @dstoppelmann.