In the wake of the epidemic, matriarch Gloria Rodriguez stepped up by encouraging everyone to support their local shops (not just hers), giving away free pizzas to moms of young children in need, and launching a pay-it-forward system to provide even more pies to parents.
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“We’re not just a pizza shop – we’re a part of the local community, and all of our customers are a part of our family,” Gloria said. “We want to do everything we can to support people when they need us most.”
In the early stages of the pandemic, we caught up with Gloria to learn more about her SoFlo enterprise and her family’s continued commitment to serving the community:
Zach Links: People always strive for a work/life balance, but for the Rodriguez family, work and life are inseparable. What’s it like to work alongside your husband and kids all day, every day?
Gloria Rodriguez: There are always constant and daily challenges. As much of a blessing as it is, it can also be a thorn. We bump heads. The good thing is that we can be open and honest with each other when someone doesn’t meet expectations. I try to lead in that department, to make sure everyone stays humble and receptive to constructive criticism.
Overall, though, it’s a blessing. I can honestly say that I can both live and work with [my husband] Hector. And I love working alongside my girls.
ZL: How do you divvy up responsibilities?
GR: Hector does it all – pizza is in his blood, he’s been doing this forever. My oldest daughter, Samantha, runs the Hialeah shop and is in charge of our social media. She’s still only 26 – she’s incredible. My youngest, Gabriella, is in the Miami Lakes location and she can run circles around all of us. She makes an amazing pizza and always has really good ideas for the business.
ZL: That must make you so proud.
GR: It makes me so happy to see them thrive in their sweet spots. I always told all of my kids – you gotta do what you love and love what you do because, that way, you won’t work a day in your life. I also told them that if the pizza biz isn’t for you, that’s also fine. But they love it and it’s been a joy to watch them grow.
ZL: Do you think women are underrepresented in the restaurant industry?
GR: I didn’t realize it when we first started but, yes, absolutely. As the years progressed, I saw that women are definitely underappreciated – they were “in the kitchen,” but not restaurateurs.
Back home, I never used to see women in the shops at all. But look at us here – we have three women in our family, myself and my two girls – that will carry the legacy. We are all pizza makers.
ZL: Was this always the plan for you and Hector?
GR: Definitely not! We’re originally from New York and, when we moved down here initially, we didn’t even intend on starting a business. Hector was working for a few different shops and we realized that Florida needed some quality New York-style pizza.
They say it’s in the water there, but to us, it’s about a commitment to quality and a legit New York aesthetic. We’ve had tons of New Yorkers compliment us – not just on the taste, but on how it all feels.
GR: We’re not just pizza makers, we’re pizza consumers, in every sense. We’re always trying to come up with different ways to do things and different ingredients to use.
We began with the classics – Hawaiian, Deluxe, Meat Lovers. Then, we started our “Slice of the Day.” That’s when the pizza maker for the day creates a new concoction based on whatever they want to create. Just last week, for example, we had mozzarella stick pizza and it was a big hit. No matter what, we’re always looking to come up with new combos that people love.
ZL: People definitely love your pizza – you do a ton of business on Slice. What has your experience with Slice been like?
GR: We love Slice! Their business model is focused on helping mom & pop shops like ours. Our rep, David, has gone above and beyond for us when it comes to customer service and helping us bring new ideas to the market.
He’s always there for us, and that’s why we’re always down to help Slice. It’s not just about us – we all have a place in our heart for local mom & pop shops. They’re the fabric of our country. With Slice, the ordering process is easy and the customer service is immediate. They’ve been a joy to work with.
ZL: How do you manage to fulfill every order and still maintain quality?
GR: It’s like Samantha just said the other day – We’re not fast food; we sell excellent food as fast as we can.