Archive for Saturday, April 22, 2006

Wheat State Pizza expands throughout state

April 22, 2006

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Wheat State Pizza is expanding again - it opened an Emporia store in mid-March and will be in Manhattan by the end of the year.

Ryan Murphy, 29, opened his first shop in June 2004 at The Malls shopping center at 23rd and Louisiana streets in Lawrence, and also has branched out into Baldwin, downtown Overland Park and Gardner.

Next on his list are a couple more corporate stores in Johnson County, plus a new growth vehicle: franchises. He already has commitments for two franchise shops elsewhere in the Kansas City area and one in Manhattan, home to Kansas State University.

"Our company's taking off," Murphy said in early March, behind the counter at his flagship store in The Malls. "It's the most fun time in my life."

Wheat State Pizza has about 75 employees, Murphy said, and sales have been rising at each location. Revenues are pumped back into the company, financing the new stores.

Wheat State's expansions come as another Kansas-grown pizza franchisee - Pittsburg-based NPC International, the world's largest franchisee of Pizza Huts with 790 restaurants and delivery kitchens - agreed earlier this year to be sold to a financing arm of Merrill Lynch.

Murphy isn't ready to claim such success yet, but he figures that his company's rapid growth and continued customer acceptance bode well for the future.

"Our growth is heading there," Murphy said. "Who knows what the future's going to bring? It's just a matter of keeping the customers happy."

Murphy started in the pizza business as a manager of Gambino's locations in the Kansas City area, then moved on to Papa John's and Domino's.

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