Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
John Wing has been in the pizza business for 35 years and has owned the Domino’s Rutland franchise for 30 years. Below, Wing talks about the business.
If you asked John Wing 34 years ago what he’d wind up doing for a living, making pizzas would not be at the top of his list.
But that’s what the Rutland native has been doing — the last 30 years as owner of the local Domino’s Pizza franchise on Wales Street.
“It gave me the opportunity to own my own business and it was an excellent company to be associated with,” Wing said. “And throughout the years, it’s been very good to me and my family.”
Wing’s career began innocently enough. In 1979, he began delivering pizzas for Phil George, who owned the Rutland Domino’s franchise. From there, Wing spent a year and a half learning the business at George’s other Domino’s store in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he ended up as manager.
When George decided to sell the Rutland store, which was located on Center Street, Wing jumped at the chance. That was 30 years ago.
“I often said I was in the right place at the right time,” Wing said the other day, standing behind the counter wearing a Domino’s baseball cap and a slightly flour-stained black apron.
When the Mount St. Joseph Academy graduate and former University of Vermont student started in the business, Domino’s sold two sizes of pizza, eight toppings and one size of Coke. Today, there’s a whole lot more than just three sizes of pizza and five different crusts on the menu. The expanded menu includes breadsticks, cheesy bread, sandwiches, pasta bowls and dessert items.
A Domino’s tractor-trailer delivers premade dough, sauce and other items (except Coke) from the company’s commissary in Granby, Conn.
The Wales Street store has two large automated ovens that can churn out as many as 150 pizzas an hour.
While making up an order of cheesy bread for a regular customer the other day, Wing said Super Bowl Sunday and Halloween are the busiest days of the year with Fridays routinely the busiest day of the week.
Wing hardly has a corner on the local pizza business. A quick look at the Yellow Pages or just drive around town and it’s not hard to run into another place that sells pizza.
So what’s the secret to surviving in a highly competitive business?
“Many have come and gone over the years and the stronger ones remain,” Wing said.
A plus for the store is its speedy deliveries. While Dominos abandoned its promise of delivery within 30 minutes or less a number of years ago, Wing’s drivers deliver within 30 minutes 95 percent of the time compared to 85 percent companywide.
Of the store’s 13 employees, many have been with Wing 10 years or more with one worker logging 28 years with the company.
(Drivers get paid by the hour, plus tips and mileage reimbursement).
In fact, after so many years of making pizza, he said “the most difficult thing is training new people.”
“I try to make it as easy for people to work here as they can,” said Wing, who hails from a well-known Rutland family that includes his parents Mary and Leonard Wing. “I firmly believe that you work so you can enhance your life and not the other way around.”
The store’s efforts have been recognized by the company with awards for speedy service in 1989, a 10/10 Award in 1997 and a Positive Impact Award in 2005 for his personal donation of $2,500 toward the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
Wing and his wife, Meg, have three children and all are involved in the business. Their son, Bartley, helps manage the Rutland store while daughter, Kirstin, manages a Domino’s store for another franchise in Burlington. Their other daughter, Susan, has worked in the business as well while attending college to earn a degree in architecture.
Wing still has time for giving back to the community, helping his alma mater, Mount St. Joseph Academy.
He’s also is the primary administrator of the Evelyn Gammons Costello Fund, a family scholarship that has raised more than $100,000 for children of single parent homes who cannot afford tuition.
Wing and his family were honored with the MSJ annual Philanthropy Award for 2010.
At 55, Wing spends several days at the store and when he’s not there he keeps tabs on the business from his home computer.
Eventually, he’ll turn the store over to his son but that day is not yet on the horizon.
“I still enjoy doing my job,” he said.
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