(CBS) – From postal worker to entrepreneur, John Clark Jr., in partnership with his wife, Pearl, has built a pizza empire.
They are some people you should know, CBS 2’s Harry Porterfield reports.
The Clarks’ company, Reggio’s Pizza, may sound old world, but the name was actually inspired by a restaurant in the 1971 movie “Shaft.” They opened a small pizza restaurant in the Chatham neighborhood 41 years ago.
“When we first started we were operating on a shoe string. We mortgaged our house and everything that we could mortgage, in order to finance build it out,” John Clark says.
A postal employee at the time, John Clark surveyed the neighborhood to determine whether it could support another restaurant.
“We thought the area had enough, or was over-saturated already with barbecue places. Of course, I like barbecue, but we already had enough,” he says.
In 1982, the company opened a frozen pizza-processing plant at 340 West 83rd St. Seventy are employed in the 40,000-square-foot USDA-inspected facility.
Reggio’s is the only African-American frozen pizza-maker in the U.S. and the only frozen-pizza maker in Chicago.
The idea surfaced after out-of-state customers asked how they could get the pizza at home. Operating pizzerias for 10 years, having opened 19, they now maintain four, including three at O’Hare.
Clark hopes other African-American entrepreneurs follow in his footsteps.
“I don’t want to be the only. I want other African-Americans to be encouraged by Reggios’ success,” he says.