Family members told Donald “Buddy” LaRosa he was foolish for wanting to open a pizzeria in Cincinnati. 

“[My father said] ‘Are you crazy? People eat potatoes in this town, they’re not going to eat pizza,'” LaRosa told WCPO, an ABC affiliate in Cincinnati. 

Now, 70 years and 64 locations later, LaRosa’s vision has proven prophetic. The entrepreneur opened LaRosa’s Pizzeria in 1954. LaRosa sank $400 of his own savings into the business and convinced a few partners to lend him some money. 

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The pizzeria remained a one-location operation until the late 1960s. It was at that point that a hoagie bun supplier inquired about starting a franchised location of LaRosa’s—this ended up being the model that would grow the brand to its 64 locations across three different states. 

In a Pizza Hall of Fame profile of LaRosa’s, PMQ reported that LaRosa’s was a trailblazer for reasons more than just being an early purveyor of pizza in Southwestern Ohio. In 1991, LaRosa’s was one of the first pizza chains to implement a system wherein customers could call a single phone number to place their order. 

“A watershed milestone for LaRosa’s was when we united the ordering and customer service function under one phone number,” Mike LaRosa, Buddy’s son, remembered at the time. “Within the first few years after the launch, our business grew threefold.” 

LaRosa’s was also on the cutting edge of online ordering, implementing it for all stores by 2003.

The business has also become known for its unfailing support of the local community. The elder LaRosa personally started the Buddy LaRosa High School Sports Hall of Fame, as well as a local Golden Gloves organization that mentors youth through boxing. 

Over 10 years ago, Buddy handed control of the business over to Mike LaRosa. As reported by WCPO, there are now three generations of LaRosas involved in the business, with “several grandchildren working for the company—including Mike’s son, Nick.” 

“Our culture is one where we constantly strive to get better,” Mike told PMQ years ago. “My father had a motto that we all live by: ‘Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.’”

That ethos is one of the reasons the business has been so successful, even as its growth has surpassed LaRosa’s wildest dreams. 

“Dad’s not around anymore,” Buddy is quoted as saying on the company’s website. “But if he was, I’d tell him ‘Dad, look at us now!’”

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