- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2007

More “pizza pizza” is coming to the Washington area. Little Caesar Enterprises Inc. has picked the Washington area as one of five it is targeting for new stores. The Detroit-based chain plans to open 100 stores here over the next 10 years.

The chain now has only a handful of stores in the Washington area — in the Maryland cities of Waldorf, Odenton, Pasadena and Ellicott City.

“The East Coast and the Northeast in general are not really strong markets for us. We’ve been concentrated in the Midwest, West and Southeast,” David Scrivano, president of Little Caesar, said last week. “We have just recently decided to make a push into the Northeast cities.”

The company has been on a bit of a “growth spurt,” as Mr. Scrivano calls it, since early last year. But Little Caesar stuck to its long tradition of not disclosing the number of stores it owns or has opened.

Little Caesar announced last week that it opened stores in 32 states and nine countries in 2006, which marked the company’s sixth year of consecutive sales increases. The company suffered a setback five years ago, when Kmart filed for bankruptcy and closed many of the stores where Little Caesar operated restaurants.

“Those are guesses on the part of certain people. That’s the distant past,” Mr. Scrivano said. “We want consistent, sustained growth. We have a great operating system and great support staff.”

Before the growth spurt, he said, the company changed some of its recipes, using fresh shredded cheese instead of frozen, as well as fresh dough and sauce.

In addition, the chain embarked on a massive remodeling plan. About 90 stores have been remodeled, and the remainder will be done by the end of the year, he said.

Little Caesar just began looking for franchisees in the Washington area. Mr. Scrivano said he expects to have the first franchisees signed this year and construction should start in 2008.

Local advertising is up to regional franchisees, so no word yet on whether Little Caesar — the guy who says “pizza pizza” — will be on the airwaves or in print.

Fourth time’s the charm

The Greene Turtle sports bar is slated to open in the Verizon Center, in the space on Sixth and F streets Northwest formerly occupied by Drinx.

Since the Verizon Center opened in late 1997, the space has had a hard time keeping a tenant. It opened as Velocity Grill sports bar, which lasted 18 months. Nick & Stef’s Steakhouse later opened in the space. In August 2005, it was replaced by Drinx, which closed late last year.

But the Greene Turtle, which opened its first location in Ocean City in 1976, has been on a building boom. It opened stores last year in other Maryland localities of Mount Airy, Columbia, La Plata and Pocomoke and has restaurants planned for Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Germantown.

The Verizon Center location is expected to open in April.

In other news …

• Bruegger’s Bagels opened its first location in the Washington area last week at 606 King St. in Alexandria. The New York-style bagel shop’s locations are concentrated on the East Coast and in the Southeast and upper Midwest.

• Retail & Hospitality appears Mondays. Contact Jen Haberkorn at 202/636-4836 or jhaberkorn@washingtontimes.com.

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