Growing up in Regina, Saskatchewan, Barry Hayes was used to a VERY different type of pizza than what was available in Toronto. “In Regina, they do these thick crust, heavy with toppings, cheese on top, baked until its toasted pizzas”. After moving to Toronto, a city where the pizza scene has been dominated by the thin-crust trend, Barry wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to bring Regina-style pizza to his new hometown and give it a unique Toronto spin.
And that’s exactly what this “pop & pop” pizza shop (co-owned by Barry and his husband Franklin) is doing. Leslieville’s newest pizza joint PizzaThick is bringing topping-heavy, cheese encrusted, deep-dish pizza to the east end, branding it “Toronto Style” Pizza. Mixing Chicago style deep-dish with biscuit style pizza, they have created a hybrid crust off the two.
Before they had the proper equipment to make their pies a few months ago, PizzaThick operated soley as a an ice cream shop, serving Kawartha Ice Cream (they still serve delicious ice-cream). But the idea was always to open up a pizza shop – a dream that Barry had for years. They announced a soft opening through the “I am a Leslievillian” Facebook group, and since then business is booming.
Delicious pizza and ice cream aside, to Barry and Franklin, PizzaThick provides an opportunity to do more than just sell cheesy goodness, it’s a chance to give back to the neighbourhood that’s been more than welcoming to them.
“We live to be a part of our neighborhood. I’ve gotten to know the residents so well, I know their kids. As for charities, we’ve told anyone, if you’re having a function or event we’re happy to provide gift cards.” When the legendary Ed’s Real Scoop down the road was holding a charity event for The United Way, Barry and Franklin sent all their customers down there for the day. “Treat people like gold and that’s where you business will come from” Barry says.
It’s all part of the WestJet philosophy, Hayes explained. After leaving his job there recently to open up the shop, his outlook on how he treats his employees is shaped by his experience there. That’s why Thick Slice employees not only get to eat as much ice cream as they can handle, but minimum wage starts at $12 and ranges upwards of $16.
Check out the video above to learn more about the shop and their pizza creations.