Pizza-by-the-Slice – A Somewhat Brief History

From College to Pizza-by-the-slice

While still in college, Ian worked at a small pizza-by-the-slice restaurant. After a visit to Italy, he began to make plans for his own restaurant. Ian had a vision of the perfect late-night, pizza-by-the-slice place. First, the college campus needed to be well-integrated with the rest of the town. Second, he was looking for residents to be active year-round. Third, there needed to be a thriving mix of arts and industry. He drove from college town to college town over the course of a year and half. Once he arrived in Madison, Wisconsin in January 2001 he knew he had found his place.

Beginning in Madison

The first Ian’s opened its doors on October 31, 2001 on the edge of the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to immediate success. The second Madison location opened on State Street In July 2005. Much smaller, it featured a salad bar in an area more focused on daytime business customers and weekend families.

Turning Workers Into Owners

One of Ian’s main goals was to create an environment where his workers could become business owners. Ian sold the State Street location in 2008 to one of his first employees, who had begun as a part-time delivery driver. In 2010, the urge for growth struck again and that owner left to open the third Ian’s, this time in Milwaukee on North Avenue. In 2012 the Milwaukee team opened the fourth location in a different part of Milwaukee, on Juneau Avenue, that had its own vibe. Our Pizza-by-the-Slice concept was slowly taking over the Midwest. 

Meanwhile, each of the restaurants had its own prep kitchen in-house. There they would start early every morning by preparing all the meat, vegetables, and cheese they needed for the next few days. In the interest of saving money, sharing resources, and consistent quality, in 2012 Ian’s also opened up a separate kitchen that would process all the Wisconsin restaurants’ meat and labor-intensive ingredients. This became Ian’s Commissary (what is often known in-house as The Lab).

Growing Westward

In 2014, another longtime employee decided Denver was seriously lacking in their pizza-by-the-slice options. He found a spot near the Colorado Rockies’ stadium and Wisconsin transplants helped spread the word. Others wanted to take Ian’s west too. In 2015 another staffer from the original location opened the sixth Ian’s in the eclectic neighborhood of Capitol Hill, in Seattle.

If you visit all six restaurants, you’ll definitely see your favorite slices. However, you’ll also notice that they have their own identity. Staff members and the community play a part in each restaurant’s vibe. As long as the core values remain the same — friendly service, quality food, opportunities for employees — you will always be able to recognize that you’re in an Ian’s Pizza.

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