By Dylan Deprey
Rick Smith always considered himself a jack-of-all trades. As a kid, he embodied the entrepreneurial spirit. He collected cans and raked leaves. He hustled hamburgers out of his grandma’s kitchen to his neighborhood friends.
As an adult, the spirit reincarnated after spending eight years in prison.
“I had a past life as a street guy and it took so much out of me that I had to let that life go and chase my dreams,” Smith said.
He worked in construction and eventually created his own home improvement firm. He saved money from several projects and decided to buy a house in his childhood neighborhood in the 53206. The building was in bad shape, but Smith and his wife had other ideas.
“My thing that I kept saying was that I wanted to build a baby mall,” Smith said. “I wanted a place where people could come and chill. A place to be safe, and let people know that there’s somebody with customer service in the hood.”
They began converting the house. The family room at front of the house transformed into the Loc Down dreadlock salon. The living room became a waiting area. The laundry room became his children’s mini-convenience store. The kitchen housed his future and he just didn’t know it yet.
An old friend had been persistent about Smith selling pizzas. Though he had worked in a kitchen when he was younger, he did not know about going into the pizza business.
“Honestly, it started after I bought a couple of Presto ovens,” Smith said. “I put a picture on Facebook and people bought it.”
From the folded pizza “Paco,” to the Fladdy’s $10 Combo Deal, Smith was knocking out several orders a day. As calls and messages came through from people across the city, Smith took the orders, made the food and delivered it, all while working his construction job.
“I was kind of burning my candle at both ends, and I gave it up for a while. Then, people kept asking if I was still doing the pizza thing,” he said.
He purchased a couple of commercial ovens and his cook time was faster. Along with offering free delivery, Fladdy’s Pizza became his full-time job.
“The business sparked, it wasn’t overnight but the love for the pizza happened quick,” Smith said. “I didn’t really have to press anybody. I gave a couple to a few people and it spread like wildfire.”
Smith said he is trying to go completely legit and keep the place as professional as possible. He goes through the same food distributors as local restaurants in the area to ensure fresh food and quality ingredients. He also is looking toward the future at creating long-lasting quality customer service.
“We get the bad reputation that people from the hood aren’t professional,” Smith said. “For these low-paying jobs, people aren’t getting trained, and when we actually care about what we’re doing, it shows.”
Though Smith has yet to finish the upstairs lounge area in the “baby mall”, he hopes to expand this model by creating the Fladdy’s foundation.
“I want to help the neighborhood out and keep it clean,” Smith said. “I want Fladdy’s to instill work ethic and customer service in the community, and just create a positive place.”
Visit Fladdy’s Pizza at https://www.facebook.com/fladdyspizza/