St. Paul’s new hot spot
There’s a new pizza shop in town. Tommie’s Pizza opened its doors in January as the Twin Cities’ only Black-owned pizza shop, and it’s sitting on prime real estate. Located near the corner of Selby Avenue and Snelling Avenue in Saint Paul, Tommie’s is situated within a vibrant, diverse neighborhood that is within walking distance of several colleges and not too far from the new Minnesota United Stadium (and its screaming soccer fans). In addition to pies and pizza-by-the-slice, Tommie’s Pizza also serves up grilled and baked wings, salads and dessert cakes. Owner Tommie Daye has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years and is ready to do things his way. The MSR caught up with Daye to find out more about his restaurant and how he got through his biggest challenges in getting started. MSR: What inspired you to launch your business? Tommie Daye: I’ve always wanted to own my own spot. I’ve been in the restaurant business for 30-plus years, and I’ve always wanted to do it for myself. When this location became available, we followed through. Now, here we are. MSR: What made you choose this location? TD: It was a no-brainer when I saw it. It’s right across the street from Whole Foods, and it’s in an up-and-coming area. You have the new soccer stadium close by, the new O’Garas is coming in. And, it’s conveniently located by Concordia, St. Thomas, Hamline, Macalester — so we’re centrally located near the colleges. They’re building a 136-unit behind me and there are 200 other units around here, plus over 60,000 cars pass here every day. MSR: How do you see your business impacting the community? TD: I get a lot of people that come and tell me that they’re happy that we’re here. I provide good food for a fair price. We cater to the college student and offer a 10 percent discount to all college students, every day, on top of other specials that we do. MSR: What’s your best seller? TD: The wings and the pepperoni pizza are our best sellers, by far. MSR: What’s the biggest challenge in running a business? TD: What was my biggest challenge, but isn’t currently, was just getting the funding and support to get things going. I didn’t get any outside funding from banks. I got all my funding from family. I didn’t know [when] starting this that banks don’t fund startups. Right now, I don’t have any challenges and things are going wonderful! MSR: What’s the most rewarding part of running your business? TD: I’ve run so many restaurants over the last 30 years, from nursing homes to many other places where I’ve been in charge of the food and the day-to-day operations. So, at this age, I’d say finally doing it for myself. MSR: What’s your vision for your business? TD: I’d like to make some improvements here and to open up other locations. I’d want it to be somewhere similar to here for a location. MSR: What advice do you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? TD: Don’t give up. When the banks say “no,” when things get hard, don’t give up. Trying to open this up and come up with the funding, it got pretty frustrating. I was almost ready to say “Just forget it.” But, I never gave up, I never quit. We got alternative funding (from family and savings), just enough to get started. The word-of-mouth thing kind of hit and we grew from there.