INSIDE DISH: Irvington favorite breaks off slice for Greenwood

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Inside Dish

Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

In the last year, we've focused primarily on locally owned eateries with a single location. This week, we'll examine one popular pizzeria's decision to expand to a second spot and how the owners have anticipated—and hopefully mitigated—the risks of spreading their attention and resources.

Mick McGrath had managed the Bazbeaux Pizza restaurant in Broad Ripple for more than a decade before deciding to strike out on his own with a similar concept. He and his wife, Nancy Duncan, enlisted their longtime across-the-street neighbors Bob and Laura Stark as minority partners and began planning what would become Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza.

Each partner brought talents and resources to the table that would help the new venture prosper. McGrath had the experience running a sit-down pizzeria and the vision for Jockamo's specialty cuisine. Bob Stark, a sales engineer for concrete construction supplier PERI Formwork, had the nuts-and-bolts smarts to manage the build-out and find savings in that often-exorbitant stage of opening. Laura Stark, vice president of operations for the Center for Diagnostic Imaging, handled the business plan and budgeting. Duncan, an outreach coordinator for the Indiana Transplant Center at Clarian Health, had experience in both business development and restaurant management.

McGrath would run the new restaurant, while the others kept their jobs. The fact that three partners would maintain incomes outside the restaurant potentially made the venture more attractive to lenders.

The pizzeria opened on Oct. 22, 2007, with start-up costs of about $500,000, covered in part with a $350,000 Small Business Administration-backed loan. The quartet of owners chose to set up shop in the historic east-side neighborhood of Irvington, which was sorely in need of sit-down eateries. The restaurant was profitable within its first quarter, McGrath said, and its gross sales exceeded $1 million in its first 12 months.

"We always said that if the first one was successful, we'd probably do at least one more," he said. "So after the second year of business in Irvington, we actively started looking looking for another location."

McGrath had seen other local eateries sink after taking on the weight of a second location, so he and his partners deliberated carefully about the terms of opening a second spot. They created a second, separate limited liability corporation as the ownership entity, to protect either restaurant if the other failed. They also had to choose the locale carefully, scouring the city for an area with low costs of operation and few, if any, similar options for diners.

In the video above, McGrath and Laura Stark reveal the group's main concerns as they plotted their expansion and eventually zeroed in on Greenwood's Old Town area, where the second Jockamo's opened Nov. 3. Maintaining the quality of operations in Irvington while McGrath spent 80-hour weeks at the new locale was paramount. Operating two similar eateries at once also has its benefits, such as providing a place for dozens of employees to train while the new eatery is under construction.

For all the owners' collective expertise, they did not have a firm grip on the real estate issues involved with leasing a space. Counseling other fledgling restaurateurs, they suggest hiring a leasing agent to help locate a space and negotiate the lease.

"I see so many businesses get caught up in a battle with their landlord over something that shouldn't be a worry," Stark said. "It's been nice that we haven't had that, either time."

"If there is an area where you don't have experience, get someone to help you," McGrath said.


Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza
5646 E. Washington St. (Irvington)
401 Market Plaza
(317) 883-8993 (Irvington)
(317) 356-6612 (Greenwood)
Concept: Specialty pizzas using fresh ingredients in a sit-down dining atmosphere.
Founded: Oct. 22, 2007 (Irvington); Nov. 3, 2010 (Greenwood).
Owners: Mick McGrath and Nancy Duncan (30 percent share each); Bob and Laura Stark (20 percent share each).
Start-up costs: $500,000 (Irvington); $550,000-$600,000 (Greenwood). For each location, the owners received $350,000 in bank financing—an SBA loan for the Irvington locale and a commercial loan for Greenwood.
Sales/profit: Gross sales at the Irvington location exceeded $1 million in its first full year, and have grown 20-25 percent every year since. Typical annual profit margin is approximately 10 percent, after taxes on income.
Employees: 50 in Irvington; 40 in Greenwood.
Seating: Approx. 160, including outside seating, in Irvington; 200, including outside seating, in Greenwood.
Goals: For the newly opened Greenwood location to surpass $1 million in gross sales for its first year.
Good to know: The moniker Jockamo came from Mick's brother Jerry. Mick and Nancy have a son named Jackson, and Jerry coined the nickname "Giacomo," which sounds like "Jockamo."

  • Best Pizza In Indianapolis
    The first time I went to Jackamo was for the soft opening. Great staff and great owners. They took the time to come and meet everyone from the neighborhood at our table. The food was great, and the servers were actually having fun. It seemed like they were all family.

    I have been back many times and I have only had one complaint. The local organic jalapenos they used on a pizza were just way too hot. Thats it.

    Keep up the good work. Greenwood is lucky to have such a great addition. We want one downtown or in fountain square next!
  • Hooked Weekly Customer
    My coworkers and I have been going to the Irvington location since Week 1. 4-6 people, at least once a week, sometimes twice. Fantastic pizza, great salad dressings and a very friendly staff. We highly recommend the Philly Jack, Slaughterhouse, Cheese Louise, and Gorgonzola dessing! Welcome to Greenwood!
  • To AtlasShrugged
    We wish you had called. These are things we need to know so they can be corrected. We would like to make it right now, so please call Marshall at 356-6612. If you can give him specifics of the day that would help us.
    Thank you, The Jockamo Owners
  • I appreciate the response
    When the delivery driver delivered my pizzas, he said "I'm sorry. They're cold. You can microwave them." I thought he was exaggerating, and tipped him three bucks anyway, because he was young and I was just glad they finally showed up. But he wasn't kidding. They were ice cold. Must have been sitting 40 minutes in the back seat of the car. Maybe the people in Greenwood like their pizza cold. But around here I have half a dozen places that can get a hot pizza to me in under 30 minutes. For seriously less money. At more than $20 apiece, plus tax and tip and a frustrating hour long wait for cold pizza, I wanted to call and complain, but was talked out of it. I'm glad to hear this isn't routine. I'll lighten up, let it go, and try the place again. Everybody I know loves this place.
    • Jockamo
      To AtlasShrugged
      This shouldn't have happened nor have been handled this way. Although this should have been shared with management, I would be surprised if it was as we always try to fix any mistakes that are made. Please call our general manager, Marshall, and discuss this with him. Mistakes do happen, but our goal is great food and service. The Jockamo Owners
    • terrible delivery ice cold food
      The restaurant has problems. Last week I ordered two, fairly expensive specialty pizzas that were supposed to take 20 mins to deliver. I only live a few minutes from the restaurant. They took an hour and those pizzas were stone cold. Irvington needed more restaurants, and everyone I know seems to like Jockamos; but I've eaten inside a half dozen times and thought it was just ok. But the delivery problems; terrible; even right in the neighborhood. I'm unlikely to call them for delivery again. When their driver returns to the restaurant and tells them how long it took to get pizzas delivered, good management would call the customers and apologize. I called the store when my food was 50 min late and they just gave me the short shrift; no apologies. And if the food had only been late, and not cold, I could have forgiven. But really wretched customer service has its costs. They lost my business, and I eat at Legends and Dufours and every other local restaurant every single week.
      • We love it :)
        My family and I have been there a few times now and we love it. Not only is the food great but the atmosphere is warm and inviting and the staff is very personable.
      • Great Pizza!
        I'm glad to see Jockkamo expanding. Their pizza selections are unique and great tasting and I'm sure Old Town Greenwood will benefit like the neighborhood on Indy's East side. I hope they offer deivery in the Greewood area as they do from East Washington Street.

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