Picasso’s Pizzeria Finds Success One Slice at a Time

While Kurt Schmidt was studying at the University of Kansas in the mid-1990’s he worked at Papa Keno’s, a pizza restaurant owned by a fellow Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School alumnus. He fell in love with making great pizza and the restaurant business. “People may think that making pizza is simple,” said Schmidt. “While the ingredients may seem basic, there is nothing easy about making a great tasting pizza,” Schmidt added.

Schmidt never forgot the days of working at Papa Keno’s or how to make a great New York style thin crust pizza. “I think I drove my wife nuts sometimes just talking about it,” laughed Schmidt. “I knew that someday I would start-up my own pizza place that offered the East Coast style thin crust slices I love.”

Dream Made Into a Reality

Schmidt’s dream of opening his own pizza place came true when a friend who worked for Weigand Real Estate showed Schmidt two available commercial properties in the Delano area of Wichita in early 2012.  Schmidt chose to lease the 1,800 square foot property that was closer to downtown and the Lawrence-Dumont Baseball Stadium, and quickly began to renovate the property for his pizzeria restaurant.

“I bootstrapped to get things going by self-financing the renovations, furnishings and equipment. I searched the online auction websites and Craigslist to find the ovens, mixers and refrigerator equipment,” said Schmidt. He also took advantage of the tenant improvement financing that was offered by the property owner.

On March 5, 2012, Picasso’s Pizzeria was open for business. Word of Schmidt’s New York style thin-crust pizza slices spread quickly and business was brisk from the start. Schmidt believes the word of mouth and social media really helped drive sales, and he didn’t have to spend a lot of resources on traditional marketing.

In 2013 Schmidt was already thinking of expanding to East Wichita. “I really liked the area near Wesley Hospital, but the timing wasn’t right,” said Schmidt. His friend in real estate showed him an available property to open a second location in Derby. “I opened the Derby location in July 2014. The first month was great, but the honeymoon was short lived. My sales dropped more than 50% in the following months and I closed the doors after six months,” said Schmidt.

“I was offered the space next door to the original location in Delano, and decided to expand the restaurant with more seating and include a full bar,” said Schmidt.

The expansion of the Delano location was completed in January 2016. “The expansion doubled our space and allowed us to increase our food sales plus offer our customers a wider variety of beers and other drinks that require a liquor license,” continued Schmidt.

He knew the market demand in East Wichita and College Hill area was strong, and in 2017 opened a new Picasso’s location on East Central Avenue that was a mile or so East of the Wesley Hospital area he targeted before. When Schmidt needed more financing for his operations and equipment needs, he contacted Scott Soderstrom of INTRUST Bank who approved the SBA 7(a) financing needed for the new location and to expand the original establishment in Delano.

The success of Picasso’s Pizzeria has been acknowledged by customers that have voted Picasso’s in the top three pizzerias in Wichita for seven straight years.

When asked for any advice he would offer an entrepreneur thinking of starting a business, Schmidt recommends starting lean and focusing on the quality of your product or service. “I bought used equipment and learned how to fix things, like our pizza oven, as the business grew. I focused on the quality of ingredients and our processes to high standards, and things worked out,” Schmidt concluded.

Company Name: 
Picasso's Pizzeria, Inc.
Location: 
Wichita, Kansas
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