Janet Duran of 550 Pizzeria in Laredo is Unstoppable
[00:00:01.790] - Lloyd
Hey, everybody, it's Lloyd with Perfect Crust pizza liners and Incredible Bags. Super excited today because I'm joined by Janet Duran of 550 Pizzeria in Laredo, Texas. Let me tell you why I'm excited. I love this Instagram feed I have from the first time I stumbled across it. I have some questions about the feed and 550 Pizzeria in general. So super excited that you're able to join us. Hi, Janet.
[00:00:26.720] - Janet
[00:00:28.910] - Lloyd
So here's the thing, about 550 Pizzeria, it opened in June of twenty twenty, which is great timing, right? I mean, global pandemic, no problem. That that seems to be something that didn't even slow you down. It seems like you're doing great.
[00:00:44.380] - Janet
Yes, not at all. I actually didn't even think about the pandemic, I mean, obviously, yes, it was going on, but it was something that. I was already all in and I couldn't stop, and it didn't I wasn't afraid of it, I didn't think of it. I was more afraid of like. I hope I hope I get busy. I mean, I'm not even thinking of like, oh my God, there's a pandemic happening now.
[00:01:09.000] - Lloyd
Excellent, excellent. So tell us a little bit about your pizza journey and how you came to open 550 Pizzeria.
[00:01:17.080] - Janet
I used to be a cashier at a former pizzeria. I always wanted to learn how to make pizza. And my former boss. His name is Jeff Trevino. He, I had asked him one day and he told me, like, I will teach you. And little by little, I started watching him sorry. I started watching him and how he was making pizza. And one day I just told him "hey, can make a pizza?" And he tells me he's like, yeah show me. Ok.
[00:01:44.710] - Janet
And he saw my pizza making skills just by watching. And he's like, "What are you doing?" He's like, "I'm going to put you on the line". And it just went from there and he taught me every single thing I need to know about the business and there are some things that he like, I would have ideas and he would tell me like write everything down, write everything down, like you're going to have your own pizzeria one day.
[00:02:07.060] - Janet
And it was it was he wanted to he wanted to move to another city. So he tells me I'll sell you my half because we had a business partner and I bought his half out and it lasted about eight to a year with him, with my other the other business partner. And I decided to close just because I just I'd rather do it on my own. And I close the pizza shop and I remember the day I was kind of devastated because it didn't end well.
[00:02:36.670] - Janet
And I remember the next day my customers just looked for me on Facebook and I even thought to myself, like, how do they even know my name? You know what I mean. So they looked me up on Facebook And I remember we had bought the Roccbox, Roccbox.
[00:02:53.920] - Janet
I had two of those and I started making pizza outside my house and I people started buying and. I remember telling my husband. I want to make larger pizzas, how how can I do it? And I was like, you know what? I will buy a pizza stone off of Amazon and I'll do I'll do it on the grill, like on an actual propane grill. Yeah. Yeah. And I started making large pizzas and it took off after that.
[00:03:19.310] - Janet
Like, I tell everybody the same story because I tell them I used to have lined up police, cops, these cars in front of my house and I would go deliver pizza to them and it looks so shady you know what I mean. But it took off from there and state like I would have state troopers, like people you would never think of, like what like they would go to my house and it was it was one pizza at a time.
[00:03:46.010] - Janet
Wow. So like maybe like sixty four pizzas a day. And I used to work at a I also used to work at a news station in the mornings. I would work from 5:00 in the morning to 1:00 p.m. and then from 2:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. I would make pizzas.
[00:03:58.280] - Lloyd
That's such a great story. I mean basically your fans or fans of your pizza would not let you quit. You're like, OK, I'm closing the shop. And they're like, no, you're still making pizza.
[00:04:08.780] - Lloyd
I love I love that story. And part of why I love it is I feel like right now and with all of the Oonies and Roccboxes and all of the different ways that people have to make pizza at home, there are more and more skilled home pizza makers. I mean, people who really study it and do great work, they make some fantastic pizzas. And the fact that not that long ago, you're making pizzas at home and now you have a shop, to me seems really inspiring. I know that a lot of your message, both to people in general as well as to your workers, is for them to believe in themselves and etc.. And I just think that you're living proof of this.
[00:04:51.990] - Janet
Thank you, I it's sometimes I walk in here and I and I always, like I always tell God, like, wow, like this is this is mine. Like, no. And even my employees tell me I'm like, you're the big boss. And it's always like, what you know, and and they even tell me, like, you make me want to go. You make me want to go chase after my dreams and I tell them, yes, like you, nobody will ever know what I went through in the sense like, you know, those those tents, the tents that they saw, like at Academy, I went through about 20 of those.
[00:05:25.470] - Janet
They would fly away. It would rain. It would it was I tell them, like, if you believe in yourself, you like you could do it. You could do it. Don't ever give up. Like even if you have all these voices and people and like, if you want to achieve your goal, you can. Of course, definitely you can.
[00:05:41.910] - Lloyd
I think that's great because it seems like you had a great mentor in Jeff with Laredo Pizza Factory and now you're kind of the mentor for the people that work for you. I mean, it sounds like they're much more than employees to you. And so you're able to encourage them in pursuing their dreams, writing it down, making it concrete. And, you know, just with what you've achieved, I think that's just such a great role model.
[00:06:08.430] - Janet
Thank you. Thank you so much.
[00:06:10.380] - Lloyd
Talking briefly about Jeff, I have to laugh about the story because I thought I when I saw the name 550 Pizzeria like, OK, I know where this comes from. And I just assumed it was an area code but it is not. So could you tell us about why your 550 Pizzeria?
[00:06:26.520] - Janet
Well, 550 is the temperature of my oven. It feels like 550 here sometimes because it's...
[00:06:34.410] - Lloyd
Summertime in Laredo, Texas. Yeah, sure.
[00:06:37.910] - Janet
It reaches up to like 107 or 117. So it's pretty hot here. But 550 always reminds me of every time a new employee would come in and he would, Jeff would train him to do the oven, he would he would be like "Janet, what's the oven supposed to be at?". And I'm like 550 like and I would always I would always tell him and it would always remind me of, he would always tell me, you need to be humble.
[00:07:01.230] - Janet
You always have to stay humble. Put your name out there. Don't be afraid, chase after your dreams work hard. And when you're tired, you need to rest, but you have to keep going. You know what I mean? He's I don't give up. And when he and he would tell me, like I tell everybody that I suffer from anxiety and he would he would tell me, like, if you want to scream in the walk in, go scream in the walk in, he's like and let it go. And I'm like, OK, but yeah, he helped me so much through a lot.
[00:07:28.110] - Lloyd
Yeah, that's excellent. So tell me about the pizza that you serve at 550. It's like a New York style.
[00:07:35.730] - Janet
Yeah, it's New York style. It's hand tossed. We do also do thin and crispy. It it's it's vegan. It's a vegan dough. I'm like, it's so good.
[00:07:51.800] - Lloyd
Well, I like some of your signature pies that are kind of, you know, Mexican-American flavors. I love that. So I've been around the pizza industry for about 20 years, and I adore an authentic Neapolitan style pizza as much as the next person. But let's face it, I'm not Italian. And, you know, what I love is pizza is a great canvas for people to kind of blend in their heritage. And when I see people like you doing it with yours, some of your flavors, your chicken, the uh, queso one with the chorizo in it. What's on that pizza?
[00:08:31.140] - Janet
The Chicken Choriqueso has a tomatillo base and the mozzarella, tomatoes, white onions, chicken and chorizo. And then at the, top it off with cilantro.
[00:08:42.530] - Lloyd
See, I think those flavors work great on a pizza. And I think that's great that Laredo being a border town, it's a huge part of your community there. And I think it's wonderful that you do that.
[00:08:52.550] - Janet
Yes, that pizza actually, Jeff is the one that came up with that pizza. And I kept it on my menu. And he actually won eighth in the world in Vegas.
[00:09:01.100] - Lloyd
Oh, wow. That's great. I did. I wasn't aware of that. That's awesome.
[00:09:05.180] - Janet
Yes. I am actually going to go to Vegas in August to compete and I'm going to take my pizza. It's called the Ghost Pizza.
[00:09:13.070] - Lloyd
Excellent. So you're competing. Well, I will see you there. I'm looking forward to meeting you in person. That's awesome. That's excellent. That's excellent. So, you know, we hear that for most places right now, the big challenge is hiring. And is that the case for you at 550?
[00:09:30.350] - Janet
Yes, I've been looking for a cashier for a while now. And I have I have two, but I need a third person. And it's been a journey for it to look for for an employee.
[00:09:42.610] - Lloyd
I see. I see. OK, so one other thing that I kind of wanted to talk to you about is, you know, so. Does being a woman business owner in what is primarily a typically male dominated field mean anything to you or does it is it not even enter? It could be that one of the things that that it means something to you or it could be one of those things, I never think about it.
[00:10:10.130] - Janet
You know, I never thought about it like. I feel like like it's like the pandemic, I was just like, OK, but being a woman also like it doesn't, it never phased me in the sense like. It's people are going to act different towards you, and I've they've done it to my face, you know what I mean? But now that my friends have they've talked to me. They they've told me all these things. And I'm like, oh, my gosh, like that is crazy.
[00:10:41.410] - Janet
That is crazy, like I am I am the business owner, you know what I mean? And they always they always ask the guys here, like people will be like "can I speak to the owner?" And they'll look out. They'll look straight to for men, you know what I mean? I'll be like, I'm the boss, I'm the business owner. And they'll just look at me up and down like with a face like.... And now I'm just like, yeah, like. But to be honest, I'm just I guess I'm I hope I hope I inspire other women to do bigger things. You know what I mean?
[00:11:13.480] - Lloyd
Right now I get the impression that, you know, you're an unstoppable force and it probably doesn't wasn't really on your radar. But, you know, I'll tell you kind of here's what it means to me is, you know, I want a world where my granddaughter can pursue her dream in whatever field it is. And to the extent that they're able to see women in positions of leadership like yourself and be able to look at that and then maybe see that for themselves, I think that's great.
[00:11:45.020] - Lloyd
And for that, I thank you it's you know, you may not see yourself as particularly a trailblazer or providing any particular value there, but I think in many ways you are. And I think that's great.
[00:11:58.090] - Janet
Thank you. Thank you so much.
[00:11:59.800] - Lloyd
Yeah. Yeah. So, you're competing in Vegas. In what, what category, again?
[00:12:04.690] - Janet
It's in the nontraditional since it's I'm I'm doing the ghost pizza and it has pepperoni, ham, sausage, fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola and Parmesan.
[00:12:16.520] - Lloyd
OK, I'm with we don't need to go into fantastic detail, but I have to say that you, the community has embraced you in a way that maybe even surprised you is some of that just like it seems like you focus a lot on quality ingredients. I know you use a high quality cheese. Imagine it's the same for all the other toppings. There's that if your staff is any reflection of you, I'm sure that they have personality and are welcoming and all that other stuff.
[00:12:47.290] - Lloyd
And what. So your grand opening seems like it was insane. Like almost like all the cops. This is out of control kind of grand opening. Yeah. So there was that. But you know, then to so beyond the grand opening, then you have to continue like there's the next day and the next day and the next day. But it seems like your community has really embraced you. Would you say that's a fair statement?
[00:13:09.130] - Janet
Yes. Oh, yes. I'm very proud of my community. I mean, I'm actually I'm actually like in shock every day on every weekend we sell out and I. You know, you get here and you're like, I wonder how today's going to be, and my employees are like, we've got this, it's Friday, you know how it is. And they tell me an amount that we're going to make. And they're like, you're like they're like you're going to see.
[00:13:32.330] - Janet
You're going to see. And I'm like, OK, like, they're they get me pumped up like. So, yeah, we when we do that amount, we sell out their just like like they're so excited, they get so pumped up and then you see and tomorrow's going to be the same, like they tell me. And I'm like, OK, yes.
[00:13:52.450] - Lloyd
Yeah, that's part of what I think the the fun and the Instagram feed that really caught my eye as well. I don't. Do you do your own Instagram or do you have somebody help you with that or what?
[00:14:05.020] - Janet
I do my own Instagram at times. I used to do it obviously for the past three years for my house. I started to need help. So I do marketing agency. It's called Madison Avenue. They're my friends also. I used to work with them at the news station and they helped me out so much. And I and I, I'll text my friend and be like I'm sold out like and she knows, like, OK, I need to post.
[00:14:27.700] - Lloyd
Whether it's you posting or your agency. I have to say one thing that I think that they cannot fake or that any business cannot fake is the enthusiasm of the staff. And it shows so that I particularly enjoy the post where it's your staff in there or you're shouting them out. And I get the impression that, you know, when you say your staff is the one saying, come on, Janet, we can do this, let's go. We're going to have a great night. I mean, it shows in the pictures. I think that's wonderful. Yeah.
[00:14:58.360] - Janet
I'm actually taking them to Vegas with me.
[00:15:01.240] - Lloyd
You're are! Wow, that's a great treat. And just, you know, again, as I said before, I get the impression that to you, they are more than employees. They are people that you're really encouraging to, you know, hey, what's your dream? And kind of coaching them in the sense that it sounds like your mentor, Jeff, was one of those people that really affected your life by, you know, taking an interest in kind of betting on you.
[00:15:28.030] - Lloyd
And there are for most of us, there's, you know, a couple of people that really changed the arc of our life by by doing that kind of investment in us. And in your role now as a business leader, the fact that you can do that with your community, I think it's just so great.
[00:15:44.350] - Janet
Thank you so much.
[00:15:46.120] - Lloyd
Yeah, well, I'm super excited that you're going to be in Vegas. And now I have yet another reason to look forward to August, and I cannot wait. So is there anything that you'd like to say in closing?
[00:16:00.610] - Janet
I'm just I'm very proud of my team. I'm so happy that I'm honored for for you to want to talk to me, to speak to me.
[00:16:07.960] - Lloyd
It's a pleasure. It's an absolute pleasure.
[00:16:10.300] - Janet
Thank you. And I'm and I'm very I'm very humbled by my Laredo community. Yes. For everything that they've done for me and that they still continue to support me.
[00:16:22.390] - Lloyd
Well, thank you so much. And we we will continue to look forward to your feed and your awesome pizzas, smiley faces of your staff, and can't wait to meet you in person in Vegas.
[00:16:34.450] - Janet
Thank you so much. Likewise.
[00:16:36.310] - Lloyd
OK, well, thank you so much, Janet.
[00:16:38.410] - Janet