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Pizza Man owner says economy, competition forced firm out of business

When Pizza Man opened here in Hastings in 1996, it promised great pizza at a good price.

For 14 years, it did just that.

But as competitors moved into Hastings and as the economy soured, Pizza Man's profits plunged. It either had to offer that great pizza at a great price, or close its doors.

In mid-March, business owner Bill Cress, Hastings, chose to do the latter. His business closed down after sending its final pizzas out March 14.

"I guess it was a combination of things," Cress said. "Basically, it was the economy. People aren't buying as much as they used to. You have that problem, and then you have the competitors. Little Caesar's comes to town and offers $5 pizzas. Domino's has their $5 mediums. Pizza Hut has their $10 for anything special.

"Those guys can make a pizza for 50 cents or a dollar, and sell it for five bucks. We couldn't do that. The market isn't right for Pizza Man anymore."

Cress is the store's original owner. He watched as lower-priced competitors moved to town and every time one did, his sales dipped.

"We used to be able to compete with the other restaurants - we think we have a better pizza," he said. "They would still spend a little more money and buy the more expensive pizza. That has pretty much changed now. People buy more on price now than they did before."

Operating the store offered Cress a glimpse into how the economy was affecting everyone.

"It was sad," he said. "We kept having our really good customers coming in, saying they had lost their jobs. They were going to have to cut back on their expenses. We can sure understand that. It was an occurrence that happened almost on a daily basis. People just can't afford to buy like they used to."

Cress said he tried selling the store for the past two years, but had no luck. By then, it was too late to sell the location.

"Once you have something that isn't making money, it's hard to sell," Cress said with a laugh.

While there are dozens of Pizza Man locations across the area, the stores are operated independently. That means the stores don't get big volume discounts on products, like big chains do, Cress said.

Still, the 14 years in business were good ones.

"I enjoyed the years we were there," Cress said. "We enjoyed all the people who patronized Pizza Man. It was fun. It was a good business when it was working."