Van Buren native Kyle Putman will have the first Fort Smith location of Marco’s Pizza open in time for Halloween, one of the busiest nights of the year for the Italian-style pizza chain. The latest pizza provider to open in the city will be located at 2505 Market Trace and will open Oct. 29.
The menu will feature a mix of classic pizzas and specialty pizzas like the White Cheezy, Deluxe and All Meat, along with a variety of salads with croutons made daily. Pizzas start around $17 for a large. Marco’s is also the first national pizza delivery brand to offer Specialty Pizza Bowls – a crustless pie made to meet consumer’s ever-changing dietary preferences, a news release said. Specialty pizza bowls start at about $8 a bowl, which is about two servings.
Coming from a finance background, Putman was introduced to Marco’s in 2018. After trying Marco’s pizza for the first time, he knew he wanted to open one in the Fort Smith area.
“I was on the search for the best pizza place to open for myself, and after seeing Marco’s was named as America’s Most Loved Pizza, I had to try it for myself,” said Putman. “I loved the authentic, Italian taste of Marco’s Pizza – it was better than anything I’ve had.”
The pizza will only be available through carryout or delivery, with delivery only available to locations about eight minutes from the storefront to ensure the pizza will be hot when delivered, he said. Ordering will be available online and through the Marco’s Pizza app.
“We’ll be serving the Fianna Hills area with this store. But there will be a few third-party options available to people — Waitr, DoorDash and UberEats,” he said.
Though there are dine-in Marco’s Pizza locations, Putman opted for the carry out and delivery only in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The market for pizza has changed and delivery and carry-out are the most popular options. And when COVID hit, it just made more sense to go with the model,” he said. “We think it’s the most sustainable.”
In total, the new business will employ 30, 15 part-time and 15 full-time, he said. And extra precautions are being taken to make sure employees and customers are safe during the pandemic. Putman invested around $500,000 for the pizza place. The completely renovated location is in a strip mall adjacent to the Harps Grocery store off Jenny Lind.
“We basically started from scratch and completely renovated the entire unit,” he said.
Petree Construction of Fort Smith was the contractor used for the remodel, Putman said, noting that as a native of the area, he understands the importance of keeping business as local as possible. If all go wells, he hopes to open two more in the Fort Smith area.
Putman said Fort Smith pizza lovers will recognize the difference with Marco’s Pizza and it will soon become their favorite. That difference is due to the freshness of the product, he said. All dough is made fresh at the store. It is mixed, allowed to rise overnight and made into the pizza crust the following day. They only use fresh, never frozen cheese and produce, and all vegetables are freshly cut daily. All sauce is also made fresh, he said.
There will be contact-free delivery, curbside carryout and extra cleaning/sanitizing measures in place. Employees are required to wear masks and gloves throughout their shifts and health checks are done daily.
“We have an app that employees can use to self-screen before each shift. It asks health-related questions. Their temperature will be taken before each shift,” Putman said.
Marco’s Pizza started in Ohio. The founder, Pasquale “Pat” Giammarco, grew up making pizzas with his father after they immigrated to the United States from Sulmona, Italy. He created Marco’s Pizza to capture the Italian spirit and flavors of his youth, the news release said.
“Opening a new store every three and a half days on average, Marco’s Pizza is committed to continued growth and increasing its presence internationally by late 2020,” the release said.