Within the past five years, Clifton Square has gone through a revitalization of sorts. Popularity and traffic in the area has grown immensely. Why is that?
|Jamie (L) and Ryan (R) Verbeckmoes|
Many people would say Ryan and Jamie Verbeckmoes are to blame. They are the two brothers who opened up the popular Ziggy’s Pizza nearly five years ago. Since then, Clifton Square has become a staple for people craving entertainment thanks also in part to the additions of Dempsey’s Burger Pub, College Hill Creamery, and Wichita Room Escape. But it was Ziggy’s who started drawing in the traffic at the start of the rejuvenation.
For fans of Ziggy’s Pizza, there’s a lot to be excited about. They will be celebrating five years this weekend and have recently announced their second location.
Between their pizza and patio, I’ve spent many days and dollars dining there. They’ve been the topic of a couple reviews and made the Wichita By E.B. Foodie Bucket List. And now today, I sit down with both Ryan and Jamie Verbeckmoes for the latest Q&A Series with Wichita By E.B.
Eddy: Ryan, Jamie, welcome to the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series. Thanks for joining me here. The
three of us go way back but for some people who may not be aware of who you are, could you tell my fifteen readers a little bit about yourself?
Jamie Verbeckmoes: 32 years old and just got married last summer to my wife Melissa, and we are expecting our first born son in 5 weeks. I was born and raised in College Hill, went to school at Kapaun and Kansas State, and ended up taking a job with my Dad’s commercial real estate company out of college.Ryan Verbeckmoes: My name is Ryan Verbeckmoes. I am 33 years old. I attended Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School, and Wichita State University. I am the biggest Wichita State Shockers fan in the entire world (maybe tied with Mike Kennedy).
Jamie: I may have gone to Kansas State, and while I cheer for the Wildcats, I BLEED Shocker Black and Yellow and always will. We spend most of our vacations following the Shockers across the country every March!
|Fun in Atlanta for the Final Four|
Eddy: Well this interview is already off to a great start. I better see the both of you in St. Louis in March. Let’s jump right into Ziggy’s. Why a pizza business?
Jamie: I took several Entrepreneurship courses in college and became intrigued with wanting to run my own business. I couldn’t be happier to go to work every day because I love what I do. We are very fortunate to be able to serve food and drinks to our friends and neighbors every day.
Ryan: Owning my own restaurant/bar has always been a dream of mine. I went to work for Pizza Hut in Oklahoma City, where my uncle Kelly Bachrodt is the Director of Operations, when I was 24 years old. I learned the pizza business from him, while managing a few of his stores. In the Summer of 2011, I moved back to Wichita.
Jamie: Ryan and I began to discuss opening a pizza place in 2011
|The Mamacita’s Taco Pizza|
Ryan: and Jamie and I started working on our plans to open Ziggy’s Pizza. We opened in January of 2012, and the rest is history.
Eddy: The pizza concept was the beginning of starting the business. Obviously Ryan, working at Pizza Hut gave you good exposure and experience. The way to keep customers coming back is serving the most delicious offerings. So the next big step was getting the actual recipes down. How did all of that come about?
Ryan: Jamie and I worked tirelessly on the dough recipe for several weeks. Once we found the one we thought was great, we stuck with it.
Jamie: Our family helped too. We taste tested our family for a while before we found the right mix of dough, sauces and toppings. Mostly trial and error.
Eddy: Big fan of the pizza name: Cheese Johnson. It’s as if WSU just put that on a tee for you.
Ryan: Coming up with the different pizza recipes and the names of them was probably the most fun part of the job. We may have a had a few adult beverages while doing so.
Eddy: You know by now the average expectancy of a restaurant is about a year old, what have been the biggest struggles for you over the past five years growing Ziggy’s?
Ryan: Turnover of employees is probably the hardest thing to deal with in the restaurant business.
Jamie: I’d say learning how to delegate responsibilities to our staff was very difficult for me. I had a hard time letting go of some of my responsibilities and trusting others to step in and take charge. But, when I started to do that, it allowed me to help grow the restaurant and concentrate on other things.Eddy: On the flip side, what do you feel is the single biggest attribute to Ziggy’s success?
Jamie: I have always thought we should treat our customers like guests (not customers) and we strive to take care of people in that way. Our goal is to make everyone feel comfortable while also making sure they have a great experience.
Eddy: As you know, I play basketball with a group of guys at a church nearby. Those guys I play with make it a point to go to Ziggy’s possibly every week after basketball so what you said probably rings true to them.
|The famous Ziggy’s Patio|
Ryan: College Hill Neighborhood has been absolutely amazing in their support and love for Ziggy’s. Growing up in the area definitely helped us know what College Hill residents want in a local restaurant. We’ve always tried to have great food, service, and beers in an informal, fun, family atmosphere.
Eddy: Your patio has been the culprit of many unproductive afternoons for me.
Ryan: I think our patio is probably the coolest part of the restaurant though!
Eddy: So this weekend……FIVE YEARS! That’s amazing. Any big plans to celebrate the anniversary?
Ryan: We are having Ziggy’s Birthday Bash this week Thursday Jan. 26th – Saturday Jan. 28th.
Jamie: We are hoping the weather cooperates enough this weekend to be able to enjoy our patio! Thursday night will be Trivia Night, which I think will be awesome.
Ryan: We are collaborating with Walnut River Brewing Company on a beer called ‘Ziggy’s Hi 5’ which we helped them brew. It is an amber lager with a smooth taste to it, and will be on tap all weekend long. As Jamie mentioned, trivia on Thursday night, Firkin Fun Night (a firkin keg of Ziggy’s Hi 5) on Friday night, and games and more fun on Saturday.
Jamie: There are other plans Friday and Saturday too, but you will have to check our Facebook page as we will reveal those plans throughout the week.
Eddy: OK, let’s have a little light-hearted fun. I’m going to throw some quick questions at you. Answer with the first word or sentence that comes to mind. First question: Favorite item on the menu?
Ryan: Ziggy Bites
|The White Delight|
Jamie: White Delight (pizza).
Eddy: Most famous customer to come in?
Ryan: Motley Crue ordered 40 pizzas after their concert at Intrust Bank Arena. However, none of them came into Ziggy’s so I don’t know if that counts.
Jamie: More Famous? Lynn Marshall or Gregg Marshall?
Eddy: Who’s the harder worker?
Jamie: Me, not close.
Ryan: Me without a doubt.
Eddy: Better cook?
Jamie: Ryan, after a couple cold ones.
Eddy: Glad you guys found something to agree on finally. OK, so both of you guys decide to leave. Who would you rather have run the restaurant? Your mother or father?
Jamie: Hopefully David Weldon, our general manager.
|Brownie Bites at Ziggy’s|
Eddy: Wow! The first shot thrown at the parents! No more of those questions, you guys are getting too comfortable. From one fans of restaurants to another, what are your three favorite restaurants to eat at in town besides Ziggy’s of course?
Jamie: Public, Monarch, La Chinita.
Ryan: Anchor, Harry’s Uptown, Bella Luna.
Eddy: OK Shocker fans, this year St. Louis could be even more important for WSU. Do the Shockers win in St. Louis this year?
Jamie: This is OUR YEAR!!!!
Ryan: I think there will be a sense of urgency to win the Valley Tournament this year, and I think we pull it off.
Eddy: Closing comments from either of you?
Jamie: Thank you to everyone who comes in to Ziggy’s and thank you to all of our amazing staff! I love how Wichita has grown over the last couple of years, and super excited for the future.
Ryan: We’re very excited to be opening our 2nd location on East 21st Street this Spring, while continuing the great relationship we have with College Hill in our current location.
Jamie: Cheers to a great 2017 for all!!!
Eddy: Well a huge thank you to the both of you for the largest Q&A Series feature yet. Once again many congrats on the anniversary and best of luck on the second location opening this Spring. I look forward to seeing what the new location holds for all pizza fans in Wichita.
As always, Happy Dining!
If you know of anybody that would be great as a guest of the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m looking for anybody who impacts Wichita in any sort of way whether they be business owners, restaurateurs, volunteers, whomever. Thank you!