Pizzeria continues expansion across East Valley SanTan Sun News

Pizzeria continues expansion across East Valley

Pizzeria continues expansion across East Valley
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By Kevin Reagan
Staff Writer

Mark Pectol has lots of weird stories from his years delivering pizza.

One he remembers most involved an order from a seedy motel on Bell Road in north Phoenix. Pectol drove out there at 2 a.m. and knocked on the customer’s door. No answer.

He peered inside the room and came across a man passed out on the bed.

“I thought he was dead,” Pectol recalled.

After confirming the unconscious customer was still breathing, Pectol looked around the room and noticed a wallet sitting on the nightstand. He withdrew some cash – enough to include a tip – and quietly left the pizza for the man to discover in the morning.

Experiences like this have convinced Pectol the pizza business is not so much about food as it is about people.

“It’s more than just pizza,” he said.

That’s why he’s remained in the business for decades – advancing the ranks from delivery driver to franchise owner.

He broke away from the corporate model of making pizza in 2013 to open his own restaurant, Zesty Zzeeks, in Ahwatukee. Six years later, Pectol and his wife Jody have nailed down a rhythm that’s allowed them to open three more locations across the East Valley.

 Their newest spot opened its doors last month in Chandler at 4050 S. Arizona Avenue – its second Chandler location.

 Each of the four pizzerias has its own personality, Pectol said, that require Zzeeks to cater to the specific tastes of their surrounding community.

 “The recipes are the same, but how we get to the finish line takes a different route,” he said.

What’s popular for Tempe’s college students probably won’t be the same as Chandler’s suburban clientele.

There’s been some trial-and-error over the years, Pectol said, but he thinks Zzeeks has found an audience that’s been seeking a higher-quality pizza.

The communal aspect of running a small chain of pizzerias is what Pectol seems to enjoy most about it. They like knowing customers by name, he said, and giving back to local sports teams and school clubs.   

He held a drawing contest with nearby schools to find his next pizza box design. They got tons of submissions and Pectol picked a design from Islands Elementary School in Gilbert.

It ended up being one of the most original designs, he explained, and it included a cartoonish rendering of Pectol tossing pizza dough into the air.

Pectol’s entire professional life has been dedicated to making pizza, which was quite different from his ambitions during college. He had gone to school to study computer science and was encouraged by a counselor to obtain some management experience before he graduated.

Pectol had already been delivering pizza for Domino’s, so he asked his boss for a promotion. It was granted and Pectol spent the next several years climbing up the corporate ladder until he was overseeing many Domino’s locations throughout Arizona.

He met Jody during this time and the two formed a bond that’s lasted 21 years.

“It’s easier when you have the same passion – passion for pizza,” Jody said.

The Pectols intended to retire when they returned to Arizona in 2013, but Mark had the desire to craft his own brand of pizza. He wanted to decide what went on the menu, how sauces were made, and which ingredients were used.

Pectol soon discovered making his own style of pizza was easier said than done.

“It was terrible when we first opened up,” he said.

He spent months researching and asking culinary experts how he could improve the Zzeeks menu. Pectol finally found the right flavor he was searching for – the secret is allowing enough time for sauce to simmer on the stove, he said.

“It really comes to life,” Pectol added.

The other secret is keeping up with the latest dietary trends. Zzeeks has healthier options including cauliflower crusts, vegan cheese, and gluten-free ingredients.

The business is continuously exploring new menu items, Pectol said, and will continue trying out

The Pectols are considering one more Zzeeks location in the East Valley before branching out to other parts of the Valley.

They envision the business not getting any bigger than a dozen restaurants since the family is not interested in becoming the next Domino’s.

Pectol said he knows what it’s like working in the corporate world and has no interest in returning.

“I could never go back,” he said.

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