| A slice of pepperoni pie
is served up to a waiting customer at a local pizza restaurant.
In the past year, five pizza places have opened in Durango,
stiff competition for restaurant owners but plenty of options
for local pizza connoisseurs. /Photo by Todd Newcomer.
A local battle is afoot, and cheese, crust
and toppings are the weapons of choice. Currently, one of the
most cutthroat segments of a tight Durango economy is the local
pizza trade. Eleven local restaurants count pizza as their chief
product, at least that many other restaurants offer the dish
as a component of their menus, and five new pizzerias have sprung
up in the last year. There’s one thing that all of them
agree on – the Durango pie is not big enough for all of
them to share.
“We know there has to be a shaking out. Durango can’t
sustain this number of pizza restaurants,” said Audie
Morris, co-owner of Brothers Pizza, on Florida Road. Morris
and his partner opened Brothers last fall, making it one of
Durango’s newest pizza dealers. He is quick to characterize
the market as “highly competitive.”
“In this kind of market, you’ve got to stay sharp,”
he said. “There are a lot of challenges.”
Morris said that to rise to the challenge and meet customer
need, Brothers is aiming for “high-end, quality taste.”
He added, “Our business strategy is hard to unveil, but
we’re going to make the best quality pizza we can.”
Cory Kitch opened Home Slice Pizza, on College Drive, last
Labor Day Weekend with his wife, Lynn, and his brother Gabe.
He noted that “high-end” pizza seems to be the aim
of many of Durango’s pizzerias. “It seems like a
lot of pizza places are trying to do exactly the same thing,”
Kitch said that a lack of quality local pizza inspired him
to look back to his roots near Chicago and open Home Slice.
“I was kind of fed up with the pizza that was available
in town,” he said.
However, Kitch was hit with an unexpected hurdle as he was
preparing business plans and running numbers prior to opening.
His house in Vallecito burned to the ground last summer, shortly
after he finished remodeling.
| Jordan Frane, of Home Slice Pizza, tosses
the dough for a large pie Monday afternoon. Home Slice is
one of the new kids on the local pizza scene, opening on
Labor Day Weekend last year. Owner Cory Kitch said despite
tough competition, his pie operation is doing good business
and exceeded his expectations. /Photo by Todd Newcomer.
“It was a real bummer,” he said. “But we
used a lot of the wood we had left over from the house to remodel
Home Slice. So it is cool because a big piece of the house has
Since opening, Home Slice has strived for a good slice at a
reasonable price, Kitch said, and the plan has been working.
“For us business has been great,” he said. “But
we opened with low expectations and started out small. There
was a lot more competition but also a lot more business than
Like Morris, Kitch said that the current competitive environment
can’t last. “I think there must have been a demand
that wasn’t being met,” he said. “But I don’t
think there’s demand for all the pizza places. I’m
just glad it’s working for us.”
One new pizza restaurant where times have been a little leaner
is Legends Pizza, on North Main. “It’s been a hard
year all over town for lots of business,” said Anita Miller,
who owns Legends with her husband, David. “Times are tight,
but with the snow we’re hoping money will come into town.”
Legends opened last March with the same mission of offering
Durango a high-grade pie. Miller said that Legends’ pizza
speaks for itself, and word of mouth is the restaurant’s
“Word of mouth will pass, and that’s what we’re
hoping for,” she said. “Many of our customers say
they’ve gone out and tried the new places but have come
back. People have even come all the way from Farmington for
our pizza. If people will come from Farmington to have it, we
figure they’ll come down the street.”
Miller said that given the recent explosion of new pizza restaurants,
Legends actually has attained senior status despite approaching
only its first anniversary. Looking over the past year, she
quickly rattles off the names of four new restaurants and mentioned
that the local Dominos franchise had closed and reopened in
the last year.
“It’s a waiting game,” Miller said. “I
don’t think that two or three people who have popped up
since us will make it. I don’t wish them any ill will.
I just think they should have done their homework.”
Tight times or not, Miller said that Legends will survive.
“We get too much good feedback to not stay here,”
she said “We’re in it for the long haul.”
Dalaney’s came on the local restaurant scene last May,
taking the place of Lori’s family restaurant and opening
a pizza delivery operation in the Domino’s space. The
pizza wing of the operation has not done as well as was hoped.
Serenity Nelson, one of the restaurant’s managers, attributes
the slowness to the restaurant’s May opening, which was
too late for publication in the phone book. “We’ve
been doing a lot in order to get our name out there,”
she said. “We’ve been doing a fairly decent job.”
Like Legends, Nelson said that Dalaney’s pizza operation
is going to hang on for the long run. In order to do this, the
entire business diversified last week by splitting the restaurant
into a 24-hour, family restaurant on one side and Big Daddy’s
Nightclub, a bar including a dance floor, on the other.
“The pizza restaurant has not been as profitable as we’d
like it to be,” she said. “It’s a little rough
now, but it is holding its own.”
Diorio’s South Pizza has been holding its own for the
last 5BD years. Dryke Hutchinson, owner of Diorio’s, said
that the difference between success and failure is up to the
pizza-eating public. In spite of a tough business climate all
over Durango, Hutchinson said that his location, friendly staff,
proven recipe and low prices have kept people coming through
“The bottom line is, I’ve been untouched by a lot
of this stuff,” he said. “My low prices, friendly
staff and the fact that I’m putting out a great slice
have kept people coming back.”
John Carpenter has a unique perspective on the current competition
in that he owned and operated Mesa Pizza, at Elmore’s
Corner, since 1995. Carpenter recently tired of the day-to-day
running of the restaurant and sold it to a couple who will be
closing Mesa Pizza and opening the Upper East Side Coffee Company
at the same location.
Carpenter said that when Mesa Pizza opened, the local pizza
market was even tighter than it is now, with 15 pizza restaurants
vying for Durango’s dollars. After extensive research,
Carpenter decided to take his restaurant east of Durango and
“There is a bigger population base within a 10-mile radius
of Elmore’s Corner than in the town of Durango,”
Carpenter said. “At that time, the Artesian Valley Ranch
was being proposed and they had done a traffic study. At that
time, 20,000 cars per day were driving through that intersection.
Now, it’s up to around 25,000.”
Carpenter said he credits a good deal of the glutted pizza
market, in 1995 and today, to the simplicity of the product.
“Italian food, and pizza in particular, is the largest
sector in the food service industry,” he said. “With
pizza, there are not many barriers to going into business.You
don’t need to be a food specialist or have much culinary
skill. The only obstacle is start-up costs.”
Carpenter is banking on this easy start-up for the future.
Though he is taking a break from Mesa Pizza for the time being,
he has plans to license the product and the name and sell it
throughout the Four Corners. “I feel like we have as good
a reputation as anyone,” he said.
And while Carpenter believes that pizza will endure in the
region, he said that the current number of businesses can’t
last in Durango. “My prediction is you’ll see a
number of pizza restaurants shake out over the next year,”