Description: full-service restaurant, offering pizzas, sandwiches and salads, and featuring live entertainment
Startup: $10,000 in 1991
2004 estimated sales: approximately $7 million
Pocket sales: Eat pizza, drink beer, enjoy live entertainment all on a $10 budget-and have money left over to tip the bartender. That's the kind of bargain that Michael and Meredith Wickliffe wanted to offer their customers when Michael decided to stop working at his friend's pizza place and start Wick's Pizza Parlor and Pub. Now, even with their entertainment expenses mounting to $75,000 per year, they still hold strong to their original goal-offering live bands without charging cover at each of their four locations.
Good karma: It takes 200 to 250 employees to keep the beer flowing and the Big Wick-their infamous 10-pound pizza-baking. With no children of their own, the Wickliffes treat their employees like family. They go to great lengths to ensure the well-being of their staff members, even lending one employee $2,000 to save her dog's life. About 20 percent of the employees have been with the company five years or longer, including the first bartender hired nine years ago. "We're pretty firm believers in karma," explains Meredith. "If you treat people like you want to be treated, it will come back to you."
Sobering success: While Wick's is celebrating 13 years in business, Michael rejoices in 10 years of sobriety. An alcoholic from the age of 17, Michael stopped drinking when he was on the brink of losing everything. Thanks to family intervention and Michael's determination, Wick's stands strong and was even honored as the 2004 Independent of the Year by Pizza Today, the leading pizza-industry magazine. "Michael created Wick's, but Wick's saved Michael," says Meredith. "It gave him a purpose."