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Detroit-Style Pizza Icon Buddy’s Plans Major Expansion to the ‘Midwest and Beyond’

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The metro Detroit pizza chain is ready to export its square pies outside of Michigan

Buddy’s Pizza started out in a dive bar on Conant near the Detroit border with Hamtramck. The restaurant is now plotting a big expansion.
Michelle and Chris Gerard
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Buddy’s Pizza, the original home of the Detroit-style square pizza, has a received an investment that will finally take the small chain beyond the borders of Michigan.

The company announced today in a release that CapitalSpring, a private investment firm focused on the restaurant industry, has made an undisclosed investment to “recapitalize” Buddy’s and assist the restaurant group in expanding its galaxy of locations “across the Midwest and beyond.”

Buddy’s was founded in 1946 by the Guerra family, and has changed hands three times since. It was last sold in 1970 to Billy and Shirlee Jacobs. Their son Robert Jacobs is now president of the company and has overseen its major growth from a small bar on Conant St. in Detroit to 12 locations across Southeast Michigan. It’s latest restaurant debuted in Ann Arbor in October and will soon be followed by a full-service restaurant at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak.

“We can grow one unit ourselves a year, but [in order] to grow faster like we want to, we have to hire some more people,” Robert Jacobs says. He expects his team to ramp up slowly over next two years as it courts new markets. Buddy’s owners will continue to manage day-to-day operations at the restaurant.

Similar to a Sicilian pizza, Detroit-style pizza sets itself apart with its focaccia-esque crust baked in a rectangular industrial “blue pan.” The pizzas are then covered with brick cheese and toppings with sauce drizzled over the top so the crust doesn’t get soggy. The result is perfectly caramelized edges and a light and spongy square slice.

Detroit-style pizza has been slowly creeping into the national consciousness over the past few years in part thanks to spots like Via 313 in Austin and Emmy Squared in New York. The new push by Buddy’s into new markets will likely drive that trend even more.

“There’s a lot of places around the country that are talking about their roots to Detroit,” Jacobs says. “We’ve seen the opportunity around the country and we want to bring our business elsewhere.”

As for exactly where Buddy’s will land next, Jacobs says that beyond the Detroit Zoo location he can’t say for certain. The company will likely focus on other cities in Michigan first such as Grand Rapids before courting a more national push.

Updated, 1/3, 3:50 p.m.: This post has been updated with comments from Buddy’s CEO.

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Buddy's Pizza

17125 Conant Street, , MI 48212 (313) 892-9001 Visit Website