LaVazios Pizza, Connections, and Tribes

Success in the Pizza Business…

…then and now!

I am taking you back over 40 years to Bay Village, Ohio in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

On the east end of Bay there was a tiny pizza shop tucked back in a strip of 3-4 businesses and an auto repair shop. The pizzeria was named for its owners; and its owners, Olga and “Voz,” were the business.

In every way that mattered, LaVazio’s Pizzeria was an honest to goodness mom and pop operation…and Olga and Voz were, you guessed it, mom and pop, respectively.

LaVazio’s Pizzeria had 3 or 4 booths across the front window and two more along the far wall. In addition to the booths, LaVazio’s offered two small tables with a couple of chairs, each in the center of the “dining room,” a space roughly 15’ by 20’ and always packed.

Olga took the orders and Voz cooked the pizzas, chicken, and potato wedges. Voz was always smiling and nodding, particularly as his fans came through the door. Olga was quick to smile, direct traffic, ring up to-go orders, and mother the faithful.

Olga was everybody’s mom and Voz was everyone’s dad…and they were magical together!

On the walls of the pizzeria, Olga and Voz were pictured riding camels, checking out the pyramids of Egypt, or posing for the faithful back home from some exotic location. Once or twice a year, every year, Olga and Voz would close their doors, post a Gone Fishing sign, and follow their dreams.

LaVazio's Pizzeria Considers Delivery for the First Time

LaVazio's Pizzeria Considers Delivery for the First Time


Everyone knew several things with certainty:

  1. Olga and Voz would be back
  2. Olga and Voz would reopen LaVazio’s, never missing a beat
  3. Olga and Voz would have new pictures for everyone to see
  4. The faithful would be there when they arrived

The faithful would welcome Olga and Voz home and share in the life they’d built and shared in that 15′ x 20′ dining room and the attached kitchen.

A new row of pictures would be added and Olga would provide the faithful with a mini-travelogue and Voz would look over, smile at his wife, nod at his fans and family, and then he would go back to his pizzas, chicken, and potato wedges.

I should say a word about the pizza, chicken, and potatoes at LaVazio’s Pizza:

Amazing!

I can still see it and, if I really focus, I can remember the smell…even the taste of it!
You see, Olga and Voz were feeding their family, their fans, the faithful, and the place was always packed and they never skimped! They were feeding the people who made their travels possible, their lives and adventure, and their business an institution.

Today we would call the faithful LaVazio’s Tribe!

Today, I can’t think of another pizzeria as good…then or now.

I’m certain my Bay High classmates, or the Bay guys that attended St. Ed’s or St. Ignatius, the Bay girls who attended Magnificat or St. Augustine’s, would agree.

LaVazio’s was an institution and Olga and Voz were Pizza Rockstars!

Here’s a question or three:

  1. Would Olga and Voz be Pizzeria Rockstars today?
  2. Would LaVazio’s be able to make it in an age of 30 minute delivery, two-for-one, and cardboard pizza?
  3. Would people wait in line just for a slice of ambrosia and another slice of history?

I think yes!

Today Olga and Voz would go viral in one way or another. People would talk about the magical pizza and a husband and wife who had nailed it in Bay Village.

Yes, I can see Voz smiling, Olga nodding and directing traffic, and my daughters videoing the whole experience, telling everyone who would listen that La Vazio’s was worth Yelping
, blogging, and tweeting about. The faithful would check in often with Foursquare and the Mayor of LaVazio’s Pizzeria would be a position of envy, something worth clicking for.

Yes, LaVazio’s would succeed because they would stand out, they’d care, they’d give back, and they’d remain unaffected and different!

You see, it wasn’t the pizza, although it was great, and it wasn’t the atmosphere, although it was special, even magical, and it wasn’t the décor, although the pictures were a constant source of smiles, amusing stories, and Voz’s nods. It was that sense of community, a connection, a feeling that we were all one big family…Olga our mom for the evening and Voz our second dad, always our second dad.

But the pizza was great…and I’ll never forget that picture with Voz on the camel!

Success in business, then and now, is about being unique and connecting with your Tribe.

We just didn’t know we were a Tribe back then…we do now!

Contact me anytime!

Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.
The Ultimate Internet Image, LLC
Lakewood, Ohio 44107
216-712-7004 (office)
440-821-7018 (mobile)

NOTE: Have a similar story? A comment or feedback? We’d love to hear from you!

Comments

  1. John Ferguson says:

    Wow! I was just talking about Voz this morning! I went to Berea High School and made the trip to Voz’s place every Friday night, without fail, for 3 years. Gosh I miss those times…and that pizza! I remember drinking suicides as we called them…a blast of every soda offered there…Fun stuff!

    THanks for sharing this!

    john

    p.s. we certainly have nothing like it here in the Cayman Islands!

  2. a little bird says:

    oh man! I would give anything to have a taste of LaVazio’s pizza again! A-N-Y-thing!

    They had such a unique flavor that I have never been able to find or duplicate, (and the greatest motivation for me to learn how to cook…) What was the secret? Any chance of ever getting a recipe? Same could be said about their chicken with potatoes dinner also… truly the most unique and delicious flavors I have ever tasted in my life!

    I felt completely devastated when they closed, and moved away myself a few years later, but remember them often and all these years later continue to mourn the loss of the tastiest and best food on earth. Where are they now?

    Best wishes to the LaVazio family, where ever you are! Maybe invite me to dinner some time?

  3. Mike Marlier says:

    Thanks for the memories! Going to LaVazio’s after football games was the best part of a Friday night. I lived on Fordham, so it was walking distance for us. Best pizza ever.

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