Built on the promise of $1 slices, Vancouver pizzeria sees inflation taking a bigger slice of the pie
Vancouver used to be the place to be if you were hungry and had a dollar burning a hole in your pocket.
In the late 90s, downtown was full of independent pizzerias offering a slice of pizza for just a dollar.
Glenn Deck, owner of Pizza 2001, says there were at least five affordable pizza places within three blocks of his home on the corner of Seymour and Pender, including a rival store next door.
“It was typical of Vancouver back in the day,” Deck said of the city’s inexpensive eateries. “It was pizza and sushi.”
Anthony Falco, an international pizza consultant, visited a dozen affordable pizzerias in the early 2000s and marveled at how there could be such a concentration of low-cost pizzerias.
“I was like, this is amazing,” he said from Barcelona, where he works at a Detroit-style pizzeria. “Getting a pizza for a dollar is almost like a magic trick.”
Falco believes Vancouver was a pioneer when it came to cheap pizza, saying the trend eventually caught on in New York City around the time of the 2008 financial crisis.
Today, however, a slice of Pizza 2001 costs $3.50 including tax, and Deck says inflation threatens the future of his company, which built its reputation on low prices.
$1 slices a thing of the past
Deck says he used to go two to three years before raising prices, but in the last year alone he had to raise prices twice due to rising costs.
“It’s unprecedented,” he said. “I’ve never seen prices go up the way they have for the past nine months…that’s it.”
Deck says he’s paying $27 for a bag of flour that used to cost $19. The cost of cheese has increased by 6%, the price of tomatoes has risen from $32 to $43 a case while that of pineapples, he says, has more than doubled.
Inflation in Canada rose to 6.7% in Marchmuch higher than economists expected and a full percentage point above February’s 30-year high.
Falco says high-end restaurants are better equipped to deal with inflation because their customers are less price-sensitive than a small, dollar pizza place that relies on volume sales to turn a profit.
Surviving a pizza price war
Deck’s aversion to charging more dates back to a little price war he had with the nearby pizzeria in 2004.
That year, he said, rising costs forced Pizza 2001 to raise the price of a share to $1.25 while its neighbor, FM Classic, held at $1. Foot traffic to Deck’s house dropped.
“My neighbor stayed a quarter behind me,” he said. “I went to $1.25, it stayed at a dollar. I went to $1.50, it went to $1.25 and it went on like that for several years.”
Deck was 30 when he opened his shop 26 years ago, and he’s managed to outlast most of his old money rivals. The pizzeria that used to be next door is now a bubble tea shop.
Pizza 2001 never closed during the pandemic, though Deck says it was forced to lay off staff. He hopes traffic at the store will pick up enough so he can bring staff back.
The pandemic’s punch followed by inflation cast doubt on Deck’s future.
He says he thinks he will always be throwing pizzas, whether at his current store or elsewhere. What he is not sure of is when he will be able to stop.
“Early retirement plans are gone,” he said. “It’s just not in the cards anymore.”