MDN: Red-Hot Growth for Pyro’s Fire Fresh Pizza
Pyro’s Fire Fresh Pizza has blazed quite a trail over the past five years by growing to five Memphis-area locations, and now co-owners Chad Foreman and Kirk Cotham are turning their sights toward expansion through the southeastern U.S.
Before forming Pyro’s in 2013, Foreman and Cotham both worked at Accredo Health Group, a Memphis-based specialty pharmacy company that was acquired by Medco Health Solutions and is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Express Scripts, which merged with Medco in 2012.
“That merger either meant we would be moving to St. Louis, or they made it interesting for us to find new opportunities and gave us the ability to do that,” Foreman said. “We wanted to stay in Memphis, and we came across this thing that was starting to happen called fast casual. “At the time, it was so new that very few people across the country were doing it. We knew it was going to be the next big thing.”
Within a couple of weeks of learning about fast-casual dining, the two were traveling across the country looking at every place they could find offering fast-casual pizza. Initially, they were looking for a franchisor to partner with, but after six months of talking with various franchisors and investigating their brands, Foreman and Cotham decided to do something different for Memphis and do it on their own.
Beginning around Thanksgiving of 2012, they spent a year building the Pyro’s concept, which features oven-fired gourmet pizzas with more than 40 possible ingredients, along with a variety of coffee beverages, craft beer and wine.
When the entrepreneurs started, Foreman said, their mantra was to carry local beer.
“Fortunately, we opened at about the same time as Wiseacre, Memphis Made and High Cotton were all launching their (craft brewery) programs, so we were able to open on Park and Union carrying all three of them,” said Foreman, who added they are partnering with local breweries in other markets as well.
Pyro’s also offers Ugly Mug coffee at its Memphis-area locations.
“The idea was always that we could create something, where instead of bringing a concept to Memphis it could be from Memphis,” Cotham said. “We always wanted to expand the footprint that we cover in Memphis and then we would grow out from there.”
They focused on the dining experience, making it upscale fast casual, and also on figuring out the real estate side of expansion.
“We wanted to go out and convince the landlords of the world to give us the best space that would make us both successful,” Cotham said…
They focused on the Memphis market first and then were able to parlay that into expansion to Tuscaloosa and Opelika, Alabama; and Tupelo, Mississippi. Leases are signed for a new Pyro’s in Birmingham, but the building has not been built yet.
Pyro’s most recent opening was in Tupelo earlier his year, and the partners say reception has been strong.
For now, there are no further expansion plans for the Memphis market, but the duo is not opposed to the possibility in the future.
Each Pyro’s location employs an average of 30 to 40 people, and its corporate offices count a staff of 10.
For now, the company plans to continue to own all of its locations, with no plans to franchise future stores.
Foreman and Cotham have also recently opened a new concept, the Levee Creamery in Collierville, which opened at 2059 S. Houston Levee Road in May. The shop features locally roasted coffee from French Truck along with a variety of handmade ice cream flavors, including Mustang Madness (Oreo cookie and vanilla), Mint To Be (mint with chocolate flakes), Grit and Grind Café (coffee), Birthday Bash, Mud Island (chocolate), and more.
Foreman and Cotham are developing another new concept that could be revealed later this year.