Ever heard of Punch Pizza? If you said no, you're missing out. It's a local Twin Cities chain of fast casual pizza restaurants that are known for their neapolitan styled pizza.
Punch crafts their pizza the traditional Italian way, so well in fact that the company actually is certified V.P.N., a designation given only to a select few pizzerias outside of Naples, Italy who are the best of the best.
Founded by John Sarrano, the first Punch Pizza location opened on February 5th, 1996 in St. Paul's Highland neighborhood. In 2002, after partnering with John Puckett and his wife (the individuals responsible for creating a little coffee shop called Caribou Coffee), Punch opened their second location. Today, there are nine extremely successful Twin Cities locations.
Nine locations? That's not the stopping point for Punch Pizza, oh no, that's just the beginning.
There's more to this place than just pizza
While Punch Pizza is obviously known for their delicious Neapolitan styled pizza that is cooked to perfection in an 800 degree wood burning stove in just 90 seconds, the company has also made the news, nationally we might add, for another reason.
In 2013 Punch Pizza raised their minimum wage for all new hires to $10 in order to attract the best talent and ultimately retain the best talent within their restaurants. The move gained the attention of President Barack Obama who even mentioned Punch Pizza in his State of the Union Address that year. Since then the minimum wage at Punch has been raised to $11, above the state of Minnesota's minimum wage of $9.
Now where does Duluth come into the picture?
This past week the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal published an article on the recent growth of Punch Pizza within the Twin Cities market along with some of the company's future plans. While Punch has added a number of locations in the surrounding suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul, the company has yet to venture far from home (St. Paul).
John Puckett stated in an interview with the MSPBJ that Punch will open their 10th and 11th locations in Eagan and Vadnais Heights come Fall 2016. After that the company will continue to look for additional growth opportunities with the next areas of focus being Duluth, Rochester, and even potentially out of state in Madison, WI.
Those cities, hundreds of miles away from the original Punch Pizza location, would happen if an ideal situation occurred (there's a lot of moving parts). Based on the success of Punch to date, there's no doubt in our mind that Punch will be able to make those plans come to fruition.
So consider this our heads up Duluth, years in advance.
If you go to Punch the next time you're in the Twin Cities we suggest trying the "Palermo" pizza (it's to die for). Oh yeah, make sure you don't forget to get that side order of focaccia!