COLUMBUS (WCMH) — 2020 dropped on the hospitality industry like a house on the Wicked Witch of the West.
Spencer Saylor was one of the furlough casualties of the catering business, leading him to cooking pizzas in his kitchen.
That, it turns out, was his Yellow Brick Road.
“Pizza, for me, and just food in general, has always been a part of my life,” Saylor said from his underground world in Clintonville.
When COVID-19 shut down catering, Saylor cooked pizza in his Columbus home, to make it feel like his Youngstown home, posting on his foodie account The Wizard of Za.
“I was doing it more to showcase what I was doing, and next thing I know, this is a business proposition,” he said. “Well, people want to buy it.”
No, they wanted to eat it. Badly!
“At its max, about 4500 people,” Saylor said of his waitlist for pizzas, adding the pizza phenomena he kicked off felt cult-like.
All in one month, but what the heck is this man behind the curtain selling?
“It’s Sicilian style, it’s a little bit thicker of a crust, about a half inch,” he described.
“Foccacia bread?” NBC4’s Brad Johansen asked.
“Foccacia bread, yep,” Saylor nodded.
Four simple pizzas, 20-25 bucks.
“Not a good way to manage your business, Spencer,” Johansen said. “You can’t have 4,500 people waiting.”
“And yet, here we are,” Saylor responded.
He partnered with the Fusion restaurant, used the space next door, hired five people, all of whom came to him asking for a job and went to a reservation system — 6-weeks wait to get a pizza.
“It was like buying tickets to a highly anticipated show,” he said of the reservations opening online. “Within five minutes, it was sold out completely!”
He served Urban Meyer at home. The Blue Jackets ate it up. They make the dough in the morning, double cook them in the afternoon, and make 80-90 pizzas a day. He really is The Wizard!
“It just became synonymous with the pizza I was posting and before I knew, it was like, ‘This is the name,’” he said of The Wizard of Za.
If I only had the brain, the courage, the heart, of this 27-year-old who clicked his heels and found, there really is no place like home.
“I finally have that moment of feeling like I’m not working,” Saylor sighed. “Like I’m not going to work. This is where I’m supposed to be. It’s a dream come true.”