How many Black-owned pizzerias do you know of? They’re pretty uncommon, right? Well, here’s one for you. Pepperoni Ray’s is a Black-owned pizzeria in New Orleans, Louisiana. The pizzeria is owned and operated by founder Raymond Gibson. I had the privilege of speaking with Gibson who provided me deeper insight into–and thus a better understanding of–his company.
Raymond Gibson worked for Dominoes Pizza from 1996-1997. With hard work and diligence, Gibson worked his way up to a manager position. After realizing that he could easily make pizza and put his own twist on it, Gibson decided to leave Dominoes to partner up with a colleague and go into business for himself.
After pouring a great deal of his money into their new company, tragedy struck. Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, devasting the lives of the people who called New Orleans home. Houses and businesses were lost forever. Gibson’s first entrepreneurial endeavor was one of those businesses that did not withstand the test of mother nature. His spirit was crushed.
Pepperoni Ray’s Opens
After working odd jobs and being treated poorly, in 2009, Gibson rekindled his passion for making pizzas and went into business for himself again. He began cooking pizzas in his basement and selling them from home. In the beginning, Gibson struggled to maintain orders and deliveries. “I would be driving the car with my knees and I’d be writing down their order information and address while I’m on my way to deliver a pizza,” Gibson said.
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Gourmet Crawfish Bread[/caption]
Hoping to build his customer list, Gibson relied heavily on word-of-mouth marketing. However, people failed to tell others about Gibsn’s outstanding food and amazing prices, so his following plateaued. Despite the failed attempt to market via word of mouth, Gibson was able to open an official pizzeria. But there were more setbacks to come.
Setbacks & The Comeback
Gibson realized that the customers that he had acquired did not continue to buy his pizzas once he obtained a location. But why? “Now that people know I have a location they say, ‘Oh. He’s good…He doesn’t need us anymore,’ and no, I actually need you more, now,” Gibson said in terms of his customers.
Gibson also mentioned that one of his biggest setbacks was dealing with employees who challenged his authority. It seemed to Gibson as though the employees that he hired thought they were on the same level as he was. This made it difficult for Gibson to run his business the way he wanted to. He lost all faith in people and was ready to give up on humanity altogether.
As of recently, many community members have rallied together to help Pepperoni Ray’s, the neighborhood pizzeria with the slogan, “Let’s Eat!” Customers have volunteered to help Gibson as much as they can. Gibson’s faith in people was restored when he realized that the Black community was starting to heed the many messages that promote Black economics.
Pepperoni Ray’s’ mission is to provide quality service, give back to the community, and be the
neighborhood pizzeria. So, visit www.pepperonirays.com
or the official Facebook Page
to support Pepperoni Ray’s. Be sure to pay Ray Gibson a visit the next time you’re down in New Orleans and, “Let’s Eat!”