Black Market Pizza keeps doors open, business booming

Morgan Shepherd

Black Market Pizza is known for its atmosphere and uniquely delicious pizza combinations, such as the Chicken Ka-Blam Pizza. But last year the restaurant was recognized throughout the community for a different reason, when it was faced with the realization that it may close its doors for good.

After closing the Ankeny location, decisions were to be made regarding what to do with the Ames restaurant. Time has passed and with the help of publicity, word of mouth and community support, Black Market Pizza is still in business and going strong.

“We didn’t have the money to market ourselves at the beginning, and we certainly didn’t have the experience,” said co-owner Greg Harvey. “Today our restaurant has vastly improved. My partner and I are here almost every day creating pizzas, shaking hands and meeting the customers. We’ve learned how to run a more efficient business and have adapted over time.”

Harvey said that closing the Ankeny location helped save the Ames site. He believes both stores were getting mediocre attention, but by closing in Ankeny, the quality at the Ames location went up. Nothing was changed with the menu or food, it was merely the attention given to the store that made the difference.

Black Market Pizza was showcased on an episode of “Man v. Food” last year, and Harvey said the show played a major role in the business’ recovery. The show helped them sort out financial situations and raised awareness of the restaurant.

“I knew our popularity would grow; it was bound to happen. ‘Man v. Food’ was just the perfect catalyst we needed,” Harvey said.

Along with the publicity from the show, loyal customers from the community bought pizzas regularly to help save the restaurant.

Jared Koweil, resident of Waterloo, Iowa, has dined at Black Market Pizza many times and said he loves the restaurant’s unique flavors and pizza combinations.

“You can’t find service or pizza like this anywhere else. I really don’t think I could find anything on the menu that I wouldn’t enjoy eating,” he said. 

“We were so grateful to see the support from the community,” Harvey said. “The local support and coverage from the show was just what the doctor ordered. Word of mouth takes a long time to spread; these things definitely helped us out.”

Harvey says both he and his partner are happy with the way business is heading. Harvey doesn’t know if he’ll be adding any restaurants to the Black Market chain, but he has other ideas of keeping the Ames location fresh.

“Before expanding to another location I would add things like sandwiches and salads to the menu. I get bored, so I try to keep things new and change things often,” he said.

The restaurant has added new features like an exclusive “underground” menu, breakfast pizza, chalkboard walls and a Kool-Aid beverage bar.

“I love what I do, and my reputation will always come before money,” Harvey said. “I’m not in this business for the money; I do it for the passion and being able to share my favorite thing with people.”