The food delivery business in Seattle is hot. Seems like each month major new players enter the sector. There’s UberEATS, Munchery, Lish, Postmates, Amazon Restaurants, Bitesquad, Caviar, and more. Some will live on, some will go the way of MySpace. And then there’s Pagliacci Pizza. Pagliacci has been delivering throughout Seattle since 1992. That’s twenty-five years of perfecting the art of delivery—from order, to baking, to getting the food to your house quickly.
For the last 11 years Pagliacci’s Driver Manager, Sasha Mitronovas, has personally trained every new driver hire. Before moving into management, he delivered pizza for Pagliacci for over 10 years. He currently manages over 250 drivers who operate out of Pagliacci’s 26 Seattle area stores. Especially on busy nights, Sasha still cruises the streets of Seattle delivering pizza.
“I started with Pagliacci as a delivery driver after moving to Seattle from New York to pursue my dream of being a ski bum,” Sasha says. “The pizza delivery job was perfect because he could ski in the mornings, work in the evenings and even get some free food. I eventually got bored in the summer and returned to school and got a BA in economics.”
Some drivers deliver for a year or two and move on to something else, while others continue for years. One driver, John Bay, who delivers out of the Magnolia store, started with Pagliacci in 1995, the same year as Sasha. Many others have been delivering for Pagliacci for over 15 years.
Jake Nickerson started driving for Pagliacci 12 years ago. “I came to Pagliacci because I had worked crappy pizza jobs for a few years and was still going to college,” Jake says. “I saw that a new location was opening near my house, so I applied right away. I knew Pagliacci was the best pizza and one of the most legit local businesses in Seattle. When I got hired, it was like graduating to the big leagues.”
Three years ago his friend Bing Martinez followed him to Pagliacci. “I’ve known Jake for 17 years, since we were kids,” Bing says. “When he started working at Pagliacci we were in a punk rock band together. We played in a Pagliacci battle of the bands in 2006. Had I known that he was making as much money as he was, I would have made the transition from being an auto mechanic much sooner. I got a side job driving pizza, made a lot of money and thought to myself ‘What am I doing carrying transmissions?’ After a super frustrating day, I quit that job and went full time with Pagliacci.”
Some Pagliacci regulars have placed over 1000 orders over the years. “We have extreme regulars,” Jake says. “That's what really sets us apart—I’m continually surprised by how loyal our customer base is after years and years of seeing the same faces. We have the once a week people that order at the same time on the same day every week. And we have the every other day—even everyday—people that eat Pagliacci pizza almost as much as I do.”
Of the regulars, Bing says, “You get to know the personalities, what they expect, how to be with them. Some are talkers; some don’t say anything. You get a quick glance into their life. Some never seem to remember you—just another delivery guy—but most look forward to seeing you. That makes you feel good. One order I’ll always remember—I still remember her order, an Original Cheese pizza and a Caesar. She was a little old lady. She opened the door and said, ‘Now that you’re here can you get this jar open for me?’ She was just so thankful. I’m thinking, 'Don’t you have a neighbor who can help?' Well, you’ve got your pizza boy. That made me really happy.”
With all the recent growth in Seattle, bad traffic has gotten worse, which adds challenges to delivery, especially during rush hour. “When the pizza is really late due to traffic you keep in touch with the customer,” Bing explains. “I have Bluetooth in my car. I call and let them know what to expect. I gently explain the challenges, and see what I can do.”
Drivers spend a lot of time in their cars and learning all sneaky routes and ways to avoid traffic. Bing puts about 20,000 miles a year on his 2013 Kia Sole (“a little urban assault vehicle”) and Jake drives a Prius C (“love the mileage”) plastered with Star Wars stickers. Neither Bing nor Jake consult maps much anymore, but when traffic snarls they turn to Google Maps (“Definitely Google Maps. I’ve tried Ways, but I want that blue line!”) for advice.
Almost every Pagliacci driver has that thing they do outside of work. For Jake, it’s Star Wars (amongst other things). This April, he’ll travel to Orlando to attend the largest Star Wars convention in the world. For Bing, it's music. There's also a local rapper, an author, a sailor, a body builder, a cat shelter volunteer; some even have full-time day jobs.
“They are a diverse group,” Sasha says. “If I had to say one thing summing up our drivers it would be that they are highly intelligent and incredibly nice.”
Over the years Pagliacci has expanded into new neighborhoods, most recently Columbia City and Mercer Island. New customers and new drivers have begun to build relationships. The constant is the knowledge of how to deliver great pizza efficiently.
Of his relationship with Pagliacci’s customers Jake says, “I’ve had some heartwarming experiences over the years, but it's the day-to-day people that are happy to see me that adds up to a rewarding experience. I once had a customer that was clearly having a rough day come to tears over the fact that her order was comped as a reward for being a super customer. She asked if she could give me a hug and I obliged.”