Company closes local pizza place

By Greg Rivara

DeKalb’s Pizza World closed its doors Sunday because sales did not meet the company’s expectations, and the branch was isolated from the home office in Bloomington, Ill.

Pizza World President Thomas Ahlers said the 10-year-old branch has left the DeKalb market because, “It is quite difficult to maintain (the) standards” present at the eight other branches located throughout Central Illinois.

DeKalb Pizza World, 928 W. Lincoln Hwy., employed about 20 people, three of which were full-time. Pizza World is a small Illinois chain, and all stores are company-owned.

The company did not renew its lease with the building’s owner, Colonial Ice Cream, because the DeKalb store’s profits were 75 percent below what was anticipated, Ahlers said. The store was not operating at a deficit and, although the lease expires May 1, company officials debated the store’s close for six months, he said.

Complications involving the store’s DeKalb location were a factor in the decision, Ahlers said. Materials and business decisions originated in Bloomington, and the almost 100 miles between the cities made the process difficult, he said.

“It is sort of an isolated store up there (in DeKalb),” he said.

Although NIU students made up a sizeable portion of the store’s sales, the DeKalb store did not profit as well as most other college-town pizza operations, Ahlers said. Competition from other restaurants, students’ tendencies to leave DeKalb during weekends and increasing competition from Chicago-area stores led officials to the decision, Ahlers said.

Perishable items and delivery trucks will be distributed among the other stores, Ahlers said. Bids on the store’s remaining equipment, such as pizza ovens, already have been accepted, he said.

Although the store has closed, Ahlers said he does not rule Pizza World out of the DeKalb market. Pizza World might consider re-opening another DeKalb store using a franchise system.

A franchise would allow Pizza World to operate in DeKalb through a private owner, who would be responsible for the store’s day-to-day operations, he said.

Pizza World is considering offering other local pizza operations the use of the store’s phone number, Ahlers said.

Pizza World began its operations in 1970 with a store in Normal, Illinois. Other store locations include Bloomington, Champaign, Peoria and Rantoul, Ill., he said.