ZZ’s Pizza Closing

ZZ’s Pizza in Walnut Hills is closing. Below is a very heartfelt email sent out to their mailing list. Ben, I hope posting it here was okay.

July 29, 2012

Friends of ZZ's,

It's with a heavy heart that I write to inform you all that this fall, ZZ's will be closing. I felt that I would let you all know in advance so it does not come as a surprise.  Most restaurants seemingly just lock their doors and not even the employees know it is happening.  I felt I owed it to you all, to inform you, because without your continued support we would have never made it this far.  After struggling with the idea for the better part of 6 months, I decided it was in the best decision to move forward both personally and professionally.  I am very proud of what my co-workers and I accomplished during our time operating the restaurant.  We collectively took a Cincinnati icon and tried our best to resurrect in a way that Tom and Bill could be proud.  We took a huge chance and put blind faith into a project few believed in.  We faced countless roadblocks, unforeseeable setbacks and struggles- but fought through them and opened over a year later than anticipated.  Many of you do not know, but the restaurant almost never happened.  The restaurant was within a month or so of opening and pipes burst. The entire building was left in ruin.  11 long months later, we opened on October 28th, 2010.  For all of us it was dream fulfilled and something that was extremely special to us and magnified by all of the adversity.    

We opened our doors with everything we had emotionally and financially vested within this little flatiron building.  We didn't have any marketing or viable advertising and less than $200 to our names, and not even enough product to get through the week.  We opened the doors for lunch in nervous anticipation, not knowing who or if anyone would come in, and after a half hour that seemed like days, our first guests arrived.  Word spread and within days we progressively got busier and it was absolutely the most fun I had ever had.  We were overwhelmed to say the least, sleep deprived, and continuously learning- but we were on cloud nine.  Seeing and recognizing customers that repeatedly dined with us, and building such a phenomenal group of loyal guests, was and still is the biggest validation of our hard work.  I have been so blessed to meet so many of you personally, and you have become friends.  There are too many of you to name individually, but I want to thank you in particular for your loyalty, patronage, and endless support- I cannot tell you how many days I just wanted to quit and give up, then one of you come would stop in rave about the pizza, your experience, and how much you loved what we were doing- which gave me and everyone the belief and strength to keep going.    

The glue that held ZZ's together was the amazing group of people that I was surrounded with everyday.  From the beginning the outpouring of support of my friends, who shared in the vision and desire to see this place open.  Friends volunteering their time to help paint, put up drywall, clean, work shifts so we wouldn't be short staffed, and providing the mental support that was all crucial to opening.  Your time, your encouragement, and your undivided friendship was the catalyst that finally got this place open. I cannot thank Justin and Kyle enough for their hard work, endless hours and dedication. They challenged me, gave everything they had, and from day one believed in what we were doing. They were underpaid and overworked, but I couldn't have asked for a better supporting team.  Renny, Jaime, Mark, Tara, Dave, Chip, Naveen, Greg, Scotty, Katie, Seth and all those that were here from day one in so many capacities, I owe more than just a thank you, but I want you to know how much you mean to me.  I would like to thank my family.  Thank all of you that helped in so many ways, including the 2000 pies my aunts and grandmother made for the taste of Cincinnati, and just being here for me. To my brothers: Jake the snake for your help whenever needed; to Grant for helping with every Taste, Party in the Park, and the remodel processes; to Adam for pretending to know how to serve tables and coming home on your limited military leave to help your brother; and to Brandon for all your unpaid accounting work, and pushing me to be more assertive and focused- I am truly blessed.  Lastly, my parents, who thought this was crazy from the beginning, and most likely still do- for never losing faith in me, and helped facilitate this dream.  If it wasn't for mom and her unsurpassed love and always open ear, ZZ's woud still be a pipe dream.    

I'm a firm believer in enjoying what you do and that work can be fun, and for a long time it was.  At the beginning of the year, it became apparent to me that the strains and stresses of the restaurant had diminished my passion and I was no longer happy.  Several employees moved on to fantastic new career opportunities, and things were changing.  For the last 6 months, without them and subsequently running a restaurant they help build by myself, I got worn out. Working 7 days a week, staffing issues, sales declines, broken A/C units/Equipment, isolating myself from my loved ones- I had to ask myself if this is what I really wanted.  And finally I came to peace with the decision that it wasn't, I could walk away knowing that I accomplished many things, made many mistakes, and learned invaluable lessons- the most important being that life is precious, and happiness is paramount. So although this has been the most difficult decision and has been very hard to grapple, ultimately it will be best, and it time to reclaim my excitement in life. I want to be able to travel again, have a family, and generally have more normalcy in my life.   

The plan is to stay open until October 28th, which will mark our 3rd anniversary. If that timeframe changes I will certainly inform you all. Until then it will be business as usual, and I hope to see many of you before then, I promise to continue to make what we all know is the best gourmet pizza in the city.  Our hours are changing one last time, beginning next week. We will be Closed Mondays & Tuesdays. Wednesdays and Thursdays open 5-9 ( Wednesday will now be half-priced wine night), Fridays 5-10, Saturdays 5-10, and Sundays 4-10.   

Thank you for your understanding and all of your support, although this will mark and end to something I loved so much, the memories and pride I have from the last few years will never diminish.  Although the next chapter isn't completely written, whatever I elect to do and what the future entails, I will never regret the chances I took and be forever grateful for the opportunity.  I firmly believe the future of The Summit Restaurant Group still has many great things in store and I am extremely optimistic and excited of what will come next.

Thank you all,
Ben Chassagne,
ZZ's Pizza Company

À la prochaine.

QC Merge & Cincy Coworks

Something special happened last week. A 1st-year conference gathered over 80 people in a funky downtown space for two days of learning, friendships, and inspiration.

QC Merge

Queen City Merge was, in my opinion, a success. No, it wasn’t perfect, but as a 1st-year conference it can only get better. The conference ended on the Reds party deck at Great American Ballpark. As I left I felt a lot of energy, but also a bit of sadness like when vacation comes to an end.

QC Merge

QC Merge was chartered to bring together folks from diverse web disciplines (hence “Merge”) to show how much talent is in Cincinnati for building web companies.  At the least, it got people talking. After the end of Jen Myers talk “Developers Can’t Design and Other Myths,” a rabid discussion ensued about why developers and designers don’t get together more often.  Why don’t developers congregate over here?  Why don’t designers congregate over there?  Should they congregate professionally or at a happy hour?  Cincinnati’s a good city for cross-pollination. Cincinnati’s a bad city for cross-pollination.

Jen’s talk was followed by Alex Hillman. Now, if you’ve followed coworking at all over the past few years, you’ve run across Alex’s name.  As co-founder of Indyhall in Philadelphia, he’s helped create one of the most successful coworking spaces in the nation (note I didn’t say largest, richest, or loudest).  Cross-pollination of ideas, creating community, gathering diverse folks – Indyhall breathes these ideas and the QC Merge debate was like a coworking values game of Scrabble™.

As a web developer, I am fairly active in the local developer communities. I attend the user groups, hackathons, and happy hours.  You know what I find there?  Other developers.  When I look at the local AIGA chapter’s roster of events, I see all kinds of events.  Same for the AMA, and the Adclub.  There are lots of developer events.  There are lots of designer events.  And there are lots of marketing and ad events.  How is it that someone like me who loves going to developer events has never encountered someone from the these other groups (not until recently at least)?  How is it that it takes a two-day conference to start the conversation?

We want Cincinnati Coworks to be a big part of this conversation.  I ask AIGA Cincinnati, Cincinnati AMA, and the like to be a part of it too. We all want the same thing, and we’ll get there faster together.

Cross-posted on Cincinnati Coworks.