A unique menu and a strong commitment to the community has paid off for Wild West Pizza & Grill.

In 2013, David Goldy took on a 90-day challenge to convert an existing pizzeria in Lompoc, California, into a new concept. “I purchased the assets to a Westside Pizza franchise and spent several months rebranding it as Wild West Pizza & Grill (wildwestpizzaoflompoc.com),” says Goldy. Unfortunately, he faced an uphill battle against the former pizzeria’s bad reputation as well as competition from several long-standing independent and chain pizzerias in the area. Two years later, Goldy’s unique menu and strong commitment to the Lompoc community have paid off. Year-to-date sales are up 56% over last year, and the last two months have shown 79% growth over the previous year.

Goldy sat down with PMQ to share some of the creative methods he used to introduce his concept and how he continues to impress his customers.

PMQ: How did you initially promote the ownership change?

Goldy: Many folks in town thought Westside simply changed its name rather than actually becoming a new pizzeria. I was not particularly well-financed, so costly marketing campaigns were out of the question. I decided that to succeed, we needed to be unique and have a strong commitment to quality and to our local community.

PMQ: With so many other pizzerias in the area, how did you set yourself apart?

Goldy: We redecorated the pizzeria with a western flair and named most of the pizzas after historic Wild West people, famous western movies, etc. For example, The Magnificent 7 is our version of a supreme pizza, loaded with seven toppings. Our super supreme pizza is called For a Few Dollars More, after the [Clint Eastwood] movie of the same name. This uniqueness also carried over to pizzas you won't find at other places. Our Jalapeño Popper pizza is a top seller now, and so is the Annie Oakley, made with mashed potatoes, gravy and fried chicken. We've done Reuben pizzas, pastrami pizzas, enchilada pizzas and chile relleno pizzas. We even have a Shanghai Cowboy pizza, which is basically Kung Pao Chicken meets pizza. We sometimes feature wild boar, venison and bison as toppings.

PMQ: Why did you choose a western theme?

Goldy: My dad was a huge western fan. Lompoc is an old cowboy town, and former western actor Stuart Whitman owns the shopping center that the pizzeria is located in.

PMQ: When you talk about a commitment to quality, what are you referring to specifically?

Goldy: We changed our main meat toppings—pepperoni, ham, chicken, Italian sausage and beef—to a natural line that is made with no growth hormones, antibiotics, fillers, soy, or artificial ingredients. We roast our own jalapeños, cut fresh pineapple daily, make our own dough, shred our own cheese and use local produce whenever possible.

PMQ: You’ve also given away hundreds of pizzas. Why?

Former western actor Stuart Whitman (pictured here on the left, with Goldy) owns the shopping center where Wild West Pizza & Grill is located

Goldy: My marketing for a year basically consisted of giving away pizza. I scour the local paper, local Facebook pages, etc. looking for opportunities to lend a hand. We are constantly donating to local volunteer groups, school clubs, and churches. I try to have a presence at everything going on in town. We hold FUNdraiser nights and donate a whopping 50% of the proceeds! Everything I do is about supporting the local community and being a business with heart. If we see that a volunteer trash mob is picking up trash, we bring them pizza; if there’s a big fire, we take pizza to the firefighters. It all balances out. I’m not worried about money today, but rather long-term growth for the future.

PMQ: You were recently named the Air Force Association’s Local Community Partner of the Year. How did that happen?

Goldy: We’re based in Lompoc, the home of Vandenberg Air Force Base. On Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, we give out close to 300 free pepperoni pizzas to vets and/or those on active duty. We also set up a free pizza program for new families stationed on VAFB and send out pizzas to all of the airmen who have to work on Christmas Eve.

PMQ: You’re also the official pizza of the local high school’s athletic department. What does that entail?

Goldy: We negotiated deals to be named the official pizza of both local high schools’ athletic departments, which gets us exclusive mentions at the games. Part of that deal involves providing a team meal to each varsity team during the year. In addition, since this is a football-crazy town, we feed the football teams free of charge after every home game. We also paid for stadium cup giveaways during homecoming; the cups featured each school’s schedule, and if you brought the cup to the restaurant, you got a free drink with a pizza purchase.

PMQ: How did you recruit the local police department in your marketing?

Goldy: We recently launched a program with the police department where we supply them with “citations”—or what some call “positive ticketing”—to be given out when someone is caught doing something good. Those who receive a “citation” can redeem it for a free personal pizza at Wild West Pizza & Grill. We printed 1,000 tickets, approved by the police chief, which are meant to be given out by officers during casual stops—walking, not driving—to those who are seen wearing their bike helmets, picking up trash, etc. It makes the cops more approachable and makes them feel good.

PMQ: How does your free movie rental promotion work?

Goldy: Any business can go to Redbox corporate and buy codes for movies and give them out as gifts (rental fees apply). Our free movie with pizza purchase is a popular promotion that our customers love.

PMQ: What are some other ways you attract customers to Wild West Pizza& Grill?

Goldy: We prepare a lunch and dinner buffet with discounts for military personnel. We also carry 50 different types of specialty sodas and offer a gluten-free crust on the menu. And we stay very active online, with close to 3,000 fans on our Facebook page.

PMQ: What’s your advice for operators who are struggling with marketingtheir pizza?

Goldy: Give it away! I want people to try my pizza. If someone tastes my pizza, they’ll become my customers. Don’t expect overnight results, but doing this will set you up for the future.

Liz Barrett is PMQ’s editor at large and author of Pizza: A Slice of American History.