Barry: You are welcome and I will try to answer your questions to the best of my ability.
What else do you bake besides NYC pizza? How well is the oven suited for NYC pretzel making? or even bagels?
we bake pizza, artisan breads, bagels, pretzels. The bagels/pretzels are done old school on bagel boards after boiling. The oven door is not the entire width of the oven so there is a blind spot so to speak that makes putting the bagel boards in a bit of a hassle. The blodgett 1048 for instance has a door that is the width of the oven deck. That would make bagel/pretzels easier with the bagel boards. The 1048 is a newer oven than the 1000 and comes with new stones- not near as good. See pictures of breads/bagels in the ovens. I put a tray in with the artisan breads and pour water in it to make steam for a crunchy crust.
Tell me about your place. Delivery, eat in, carry out, all of the above?
I am a high school special education teacher and have created a unique program in which we are a licensed commercial bakery. I teach students skills needed to be successful in the workplace. We do not deliver, have no direct phone, do not advertise, are in a locked facility(customers have to buzz an intercom and be let in the school), only open during school hours/school calendar, make 1 size pie (18") with only cheese and pepperoni as topping choices, and orders need to be placed at least a day in advance. Each week we make thousands of baked goods, bagels, pizzas, for 2 school districts and Dension University cafeterias, have contracts with local restaurants, civic organizations, and the general public.
Is a pizza place as profitable as I believe it could be? I am in the Chicago burbs where thin pizza sucks, has a cracker like crust and is cut into squares. Shockingly absurd and bad.
I am not your normal pizza/bakery type person. I am old school and believe in strict quality control which means I am involved in every product. We will not send inferior products out the door and have canceled orders where the dough was not right, etc. Here in Central Ohio the pizza in not any good IMO. I come from the NYC area Italian culture so my idea of good is different than here. There are shops here that are continually packed that would be out of business in a week back home. One thing I have learned is the food we grew up on will always be the special one that reminds us of home. So each region of the country will have a different opinion of what is really good/bad. It has been a challenge to get the locals to try our stuff but once they do they come back. We are working at capacity and on the pizza end many of our regular customers are people from NY, NJ, CT, and people that have experienced NY style pizza in the NY area. We have a woman who travels 90 miles round trip from Columbus every week to buy our pies. Also a 3rd generation NYC pizzeria owner who now lives in Columbus is a regular and big supporter of our program. I make the pizza I love. No compromise. Take it or leave it. People are coming and most ask why I am not opening a regular pizzeria somewhere in the area. I feel a calling to do the work I do and at some point I may open my own place and employ just my wife and a special needs student or two. For me the operation has to be small. The more removed I become from the product the more it drifts from what I want it to be. I have no dreams of getting rich but have big dreams of making a consistantly good product.
How easy is it to get that perfect NYC pie consistently once you get your recipe down using the Blodgett? From what I understand that is one of the big advantages of that oven. Consistency of the heat compared to wood or coal.
Working with dough is a forever changing thing. The temperature of the workspace, humidity, temp of the water coming out of the tap, refrigerator temps, all change drastically throughout the year in this part of the country. Figuring out dough management is the hardest part of making a consistantly good pie and in reality you will have your "wow that is great dough" days and your "man that dough is ok but not a wow day". That is the nature of dealing working in a commercial setting. Most customers don't notice it but I do and if it is off enough to not satify me we will not sell it. The ovens are solid and predictable. Having the dough in prime condition throughout a work day takes time and learning to have a nice steady pace takes time. Frantic rushing creates crap. Steady groove, and this means people will often have to wait for their pies, means a much higher percentage that your pies will be right where you want them. One has to figure their daily demand. I put a cap on our dough balls each day and if I open my own place will make about 40-60 pies a day and I will make them. Most shops today are into volume. The 1000's are not the best oven for high volume in the deck world. The newer ovens have a wider deck surface that can handle 6-18" pies. To keep up with that kind of production one will need at least 2 people to makepies/run the ovens. Coal and WFO ovens run hotter than gas deck ovens. The 1000's go to 650 degrees but the pies will not cook evenly top/bottom. You will end up with burned bottoms and undercooked tops. 500-560 is the normal range for evenly cooked pies.
All info is appreciated, even pointing me towards other threads or resources. I really want to know if I can make real money doing this. I believe I can have a niche that is not really being filled here.
I don't know what your idea of making money is. I will always use top ingredients and not put out a large number of pies. My shop will be small with seating for 25 max. Most guys that make big money have many people working in the kitchen, a large eating area, do delivery, and turn out hundreds of pies a day. That sounds like a living hell to me. I will have a pension when I retire from teaching and that will allow me to run a small shop my way. I will only be open 3-4 days a week and no more than 7 hours a day. I say make the pie you love. No compromise. Don't look for a nitche just do your thing. If your heart is really in it and it is a great product people will come. I am probably the wrong guy to ask about making money
here is a video I made recently of our year in revue.