VACAVILLE — After a nearly seven-year hiatus, Pizza Pucks made its return to Vacaville in July and things are going swimmingly, says owner Eric Frakes.
After a soft opening – the “Open” sign remained off – on July 4, Frakes said the new location on the corner of Dobbins Street and East Monte Vista Avenue was packed within days.
That, Frakes said, was a clear sign that the round, cinnamon roll-inspired pizza treats were sorely missed. But he still had reservations.
“The only thing was that it was a little scary in the beginning. We got a whole new staff and nobody knew what they were doing, so we literally unlocked the doors, but didn’t turn on the ‘Open’ sign,” Frakes said. “We anticipated 30, 40, maybe 50 customers the first day and maybe the second day.”
Our first day, because of social networking, Pizza Pucks served more than 200 customers, he said. The next day, the eatery saw more than 500 customers. That led to some unhappy customers because of long waits, Frakes said, and a lot of damage control.
“We definitely weren’t expecting any of this,” he said.
One new feature that Frakes said has been a hit is the drive-thru window, which allows people to phone in their orders and pick up their food without leaving their cars.
The Pizza Puck itself goes back to the days when Frakes had a restaurant in downtown Vacaville called Pepperoni’s. At an after-hours meeting, one employee brought cinnamon rolls. When the treats ran out, Frakes wanted more, so he baked up a batch in the restaurant kitchen.
“They came out just the way they were supposed to look,” he said. “But they tasted horrible. Our dough had basil, oregano and other stuff in it.”
So he took the makings of a pizza, rolled it up and baked it like a cinnamon roll and the Pizza Puck was born.
“It completely changes the flavor of pizza,” Frakes said. “It’s something about the way it’s done.”
The circular pizza treats, similar in size to a hockey puck, took off in popularity – spawning eight Pizza Pucks restaurants in Vacaville, Fairfield and Vallejo.
Things turned south in late 2006 and early 2007 when a massive franchising deal fell through after the main partner had a heart attack, leaving the company in dire financial straits, Frakes said. When sales started to dip, “We just started closing stores,” he said.
Six years later, Frakes said he saw that demand remained strong.
“One of the big reasons we actually restarted this is these shirts,” he said, pointing to a company shirt. “I’ve got a closet full of old Pizza Pucks shirts just because over the years I have them. And whenever I put one of these silly things on, I go to the hardware store, I go to the grocery store, anything, I get people, ‘Where is it?’ ‘When’s it opening?’ ‘Where’d it go?’ ‘I haven’t seen one in a long time.’ ”
That got the wheels turning.
“I literally had a couple of times where I had groups of people coming around me, and I’m finally like, ‘You know what? I need to re-address the possibility of maybe opening these back up again,’ ” Frakes said. “And that’s kind of the reason we did Vacaville.”
The popularity of Pizza Pucks was still there after several years.
“If we were a completely new startup, I probably would have done Sacramento or the Bay Area, something with a little higher traffic,” he said. “But we already have a very loyal customer base in this town, so it seemed like a place to start.”
With 30-plus employees and the restaurant still under construction, Frakes said he still has plans for expansion, but so far the initial store is proving a success.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.