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Figaro’s takes bigger slice of pizza market

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Posted: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
BY: Rick Beasley, Newport News Times

NEWPORT — Trained as a clinical psychologist, businessman Gary Lane analyzed the Figaro’s Pizza franchise he bought in January 2012, and prescribed a makeover that added delivery, pizza by the slice and brightened the storefront.

The treatment worked, with business soaring over last year’s sales records.

“We’re up considerably, by at least 30 percent,” said Lane, even as he eyes an even bigger slice of Newport’s crowded pizza market. “The most significant move was adding delivery and working with four or five major hotels, which expanded our main market of families to include tourists. But we did some other things, like offering discounts to schools and seeding some of the programs, like robotics, with grant money. Now, we’re doing lots of business with the schools.”

A more tangible indicator of success is the payroll, which continued to support seven employees through the winter without the usual off-season layoffs.

Besides bold stabs at demographics that were largely untouched in the franchise’s 20-year history in Newport, Lane and his partner, wife Carol, revitalized the store’s interior with brighter lights and better signage, core improvements that help customers navigate a menu packed with pizzas and Italian calzones, lasagna, chicken wings, salads and eight kinds of breadsticks.

“When we were looking at the store, we looked at the income and the recovery time based on the streams that were coming in,” said Lane, 62, who lives with Carol in a nice motorhome at Pacific Shores Oceanfront RV Park when he is in town to run Figaro’s. “Then we looked at the market shares they weren’t going after to grow the business, and it turned out we were right.”

The Lanes are prominent members of the state’s adult foster care industry, operating a successful home in Eugene. Gary served as head of the industry’s union but stepped away to buy the business after he complimented the previous owner on the operation’s cleanliness.
“The lesson here is don’t make so many compliments,” he chuckled. “Basically, I’ve always liked the taste of Figaro’s, and the fact that it’s take home and not sit-down is pretty nice. As a storeowner, I don’t have to clean restrooms and do dishes, so the expense is less. This was a well-run operation, but the owners had other priorities, like raising kids, and delivery didn’t fit their business plan. But we’re grandparents, now, and we can do what we want.”

The Figaro’s brand dates back to 1981, when it was founded in Salem to meet the growing needs of families for convenience. It’s “we bake or you bake” niche gave the company an enviable position in the marketplace, which now has independently-owned 64 stores.

The Spic-and-Span Figaro’s in Newport hums with customers, partly due to its location at 2035 North Coast Highway in Whaler’s Village, a busy mall at the north end of town with a state liquor store and a Radio Shack dealer as close neighbors. It doesn’t hurt that the mall sits across the street from Safeway and Fred Meyer, making it a convenient conclusion to any shopping trip.

Figaro’s is open daily 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with extended nighttime hours in the summer. Customers can view the menu and order on-line by going to figaros.com, or calling 541-265-2061.

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