Things are changing fast for Portland's Lonesome's Pizza. Business for the two-year-old company is booming, expanding and moving. From its humble beginnings in a communal kitchen, Lonesome's has moved into prime Portland real estate. They are taking over the iconic pizza nook next to Dante's, across the street from Voodoo Doughnut and deep in the heart of Portland.
Two years ago, Lonesome's Pizza embarked on its first and only marketing push, an 18-day word-of-mouth campaign that would make many business professionals cringe. Two of the four founders, Noah Antieau and Nic Reddy, known around town as Nik Sin, hit every bar in town. Antieau is 7 feet and 300 pounds and Sin is 3 feet six inches and 70 pounds. They had a My Little Pony backpack full of flyers and were in the depths of an intense, side-winding bender.
"That's all we did ... we were pickled for almost three weeks," says Antieau. The two-and-a-half week sales pitch came to an immediate halt with Antieau and Sin brawling in a Plaid Pantry. Allegedly there's a closed-circuit video of Antieau picking up Sin and hurling him a sizable distance across the shop. "I went back there a week later and the cashier just started cracking up ... I guess they showed the video of us going toe-to-toe with the staff," says Antieau.
Still, during their first week in business, they made a couple hundred dollars in sales. And, to everyone's surprise, business has grown ever since. To date Lonesome's has expanded from the original four owners to 23 full-time employees, each earning $10 an hour plus tips. Antieau proudly states, "And we haven't done anything."
There is some underselling there. But in Portland's pizza landscape, competition is steep. One thing they have going for them is their marketing prowess, which involves re-imagining every pizza box as a vehicle for art. For example, a customer might find burned CDs with biographies, spanning the legendary Afro-beat icon Fela Kuti to the blistering Brooklyn punk band Call of the Wild. There is also a diverse collection of visual artists such as Portland photographer Corey Arnold, collage artist Ray Sell and a collection of unusual (greeting) cards.
The inspiration for delivering art and pizza was born in a New York art gallery. Antieau and Lonesome's three co-owners all worked for Antieau's traveling art gallery, Red Truck Gallery. Somewhere during the night and preparing for the show, Antieau looked at the greasy inside of an old pizza box and saw the perfect canvas.
A Sample of Lonesome's Pizza Names
- A comprehensive list of their ex-girlfriends' names and phone numbers
- John Stamos vs. The Entire Comanche Nation
- '97 Kia Optima, Lavender
- Party of Five Marathons
- Tesla the Inventor vs. Dokken the Band
Equally notable is Lonesome's Facebook page where they post different catchy artists and their works along with pizza specials. These posts are slowly building a community that's finding common ground beyond food. Lonesome's is exploring new ways to connect with their customers, gaining recognition through art, not food ... and that was always the point.
"I don't know the first thing about making a pizza. For me it's always been about promoting the artists I love," says Antieau. "I was always looking for a more egalitarian platform to show art."