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Pizza slinger is no stranger to the business

Shop Talk
By: Art Garcia, Telegraph Correspondent
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El Dorado Hills isn’t “over pizza-ed,” according to Steve Wilkinson, but it may be “over restaurant-ed” for the town’s population. The founder of the Steve’s Pizza chain in the Sacramento region and owner of the eateries of that name in El Dorado Hills and Davis, where the business started in February 1978, noted that several local restaurants have closed, among them the classy Masque in La Borgata, the fast-food Pick Up Stix Chinese menu outlet and Quizno’s. The Steve’s Pizza in El Dorado Hills is one of the town’s earliest businesses, opening in 1996, pre-La Borgata and Town Center. “Nobody’s sales are up but we’re optimistic things are going to start turning around. We’re doing a lot of promotions and working on different ways to market. We feel our menu is as good as anybody’s in El Dorado Hills,” Wilkinson said. No major menu changes are in store, though there may be some new items “down the road, but we don’t have any plans for a major makeover at this point,” said Wilkinson, 64, who launched what became a nine-store chain. He’s working on plans for “cosmetic” changes, such as new carpet and paint, but “nothing drastic” in upgrades for the 4,000-square-foo restaurant. “I like the feel of the restaurant,” he said. There’ll be “nothing drastic” in EDH improvements because “people really like the Steve’s atmosphere.” The patio seats 40, adding to the inside seating capacity of 150. The party room is a post Little League baseball game or soccer match pizza-feed gathering place, according to Wilkinson. At one point, Wilkinson owned eight Steve’s Pizza shops, starting with the Davis location, followed by a take-out and delivery store at the corner of Fair Oaks and Watt Avenue in Sacramento that he sold five years later. Other Steve’s still operating are on Howe Avenue, near Sacramento State University; Natomas, Elk Grove, most recently in Roseville, and at five points at Arden and Eastern in Sacramento, to be closed because of the loss of a property lease, and El Dorado Hills. This is Wilkinson’s second time around owning the El Dorado Hills shop. He sold the store to a franchisee then bought it back two years ago after the franchisee ran into financial difficulties. Wilkinson sold the franchise rights to six stores to Brand Equity Development, which has franchised them for $25,000 each. New Steve’s are in the works for locations in Folsom, at a site being negotiated, and Rancho Cordova, south of Highway 50, near Data Drive and Zinfandel. Both should open in about a year. Wilkinson owns none of the franchise outlets and will not purchase the Folsom or Rancho Cordova franchises. Roseville is a prototype store for new eateries coming on line. All are or will be contemporary in décor but the two new stores will be larger than the Roseville by about 1,000 square feet. There are no plans to expand the Steve’s concept to other regions or take it national. “We would like to build up to 20 stores, the number in our sights for the Sacramento region,” Wilkinson said. “We’re a family oriented business and I’m still involved. I feel we can be successful in this region without getting into a larger situation, especially in today’s market. But we’re moving forward,” he said. “We’re not afraid of what’s happening in the economy right now. We’re optimistic about our product and what we’re trying to do. I’m still positive about the future.” Wilkinson is president and CEO of his company and his wife serves as secretary-trreasurer. They make their home in Davis.