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W.Va. pizza makers expanding to Ohio, Morgantown

Nov. 12, 2012 @ 12:13 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Pies & Pints President Rob Lindeman wants to make sure every pizza sold in his restaurants, whether it’s in Ohio, West Virginia or Timbuktu, tastes just like it came from Charleston or Fayetteville.

He wants the restaurants to have the same look and feel as Pies & Pints’ original locations, too. It’s all a part of “brand connection.”

“Some companies, as they grow, lose sight of . . . what brought them to the dance,” he said.

Lindeman, who also is majority owner and managing member of the company, does not want that to happen to Pies & Pints. He said when the gourmet pizza chain opens its new location in Morgantown next year, customers will receive the same food, beer and quality service they’ve come to expect.

Lindeman also is worried about the intangible aspects of his company: the culture, the charm.

So the company’s brand-new Worthington, Ohio, store, along with the upcoming Morgantown location and all future Pies & Pints restaurants, will feature recreations of the “White Elephant Saloon” mural found at its Charleston location.

Lindeman said the recreations of the mural are a deliberate move to tie all the company’s locations together.

“It’s one of our differentiators, that’s part of the brand,” he said. “It’s why people spend so much more money on Apple than they do a PC product.”

He said the company also tries to hire from within, promoting workers to management positions as the business expands.

“You don’t have to teach the culture to them if they’re already living it,” he said.

Until earlier this year, Pies & Pints was on the verge of losing its most important branding element: that simple, catchy name.

There is a restaurant named “Pies & Pints” in Seattle, completely unaffiliated with the West Virginia company, and the owners of the West Coast business owned the trademark to the name.

Lindeman said his company was allowed to use the Pies & Pints name in its Mountain State stores because the businesses do not operate in the same market and do not advertise in the same areas.

But as Lindeman and his partners prepared to open new stores in West Virginia and other states, they wanted to prevent potential trademark problems.

“As we wanted to grow and develop this brand, it wasn’t realistic to continue down this path,” Lindeman said.

“We had a pretty big gap there,” he said.

So West Virginia’s Pies & Pints began to consider other options. In April, the company announced a contest for fans to come up with a new name for the restaurant.

Lindeman said the contest brought many interesting suggestions — his favorite was “Cups and Circles” — but his company came to terms with the Seattle pizzeria before the contest was over. While the original Seattle restaurant is still allowed to use “Pies & Pints,” West Virginia’s Pies & Pints now owns the trademark and will be able to use the name in all future stores.

The deal was finalized in late spring. Lindeman could not say how much the naming rights cost his company, but he’s glad the burgeoning chain will not have to be called “Cups and Circles.”

“There’s something really cool about having ‘Pies & Pints.’ It’s at the heart of what we do best,” Lindeman said.

The company’s new Morgantown location will be at the Suncrest Towne Centre, near West Virginia University’s football stadium. It will be Pies & Pints’ only franchise, owned by Lexington, Ky., businessman Stan Warr but identical in almost every way to the company’s existing locations.

The restaurant is set to open in early 2013.

Pies & Pints denied rumors of a Morgantown location last month.

“We don’t talk about things that aren’t definite or signed. We were still negotiating that deal,” Lindeman said.

Pies & Pints opened the Worthington restaurant on Monday, Nov. 5. Though the company did not begin advertising in the area until last weekend, Lindeman said the crowds have been “really, really solid.”

“The reception there has been absolutely fantastic. You always run the risk of no one showing up, but we’ve been very pleased,” he said.

Lindeman said the company also is close to finalizing a new store in Dayton and another in Columbus, Ohio.

He said the company also “has feelers out” in Nashville, Tenn. and Pittsburgh, though nothing is concrete at this point.

“It’s real critical to us that we don’t grow too fast,” he said. “We could not open 10 stores in the next year, but we can definitely open three or four stores.”

 

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