Thursday, December 11, 2003

LaRosa's delivers its '2010 pizzeria' venture

Cliff Peale

The "2010 pizzeria," the wave of the future for LaRosa's Inc., is coming to Greater Cincinnati.

The hometown pizza company, which opened the first of its prototype restaurants near Dayton last year, will open its first local version during January in Florence.

The new pizzeria will be on Houston Road amid a slew of new developments.

LaRosa's spent years designing the new store concept as a linchpin of its expansion beyond this region. The company hopes the plan will double its annual sales to $250 million by 2010.

The new restaurant includes a "casual zone" serving alcoholic beverages, a play area for children and expanded takeout offerings.

"It was a no-brainer for out of the market, and once we took a look at it, it's so much richer than some of our current environments," said Pete Buscani, LaRosa's senior vice president of marketing.

A third store should open early next year in Beavercreek, near Dayton.

LaRosa's will celebrate its 50th anniversary in March and plans to unveil an expanded menu by then to all of its 54 stores.

Moving on

Three months in a row of record revenue and auto lease transfers have the owners of thinking that good times are ahead.

The online car-leasing company also cut its costs this summer, vacating an office at Fourth and Vine streets downtown and moving to Colerain Township.

The company's new offices, leased for about half a dozen employees, are near several car dealerships operated by Joseph Auto Group, which owns Swapalease.

"We've got a lot more space out here," said Scot Hall, director of lease operations. "It is less expensive, and just more convenient. After the startup, there's really no reason for us to be downtown."

Founded in 2000, Swapalease lets drivers of leased cars find a new leaseholder through its Web site. It's pushing about 200 transfers per month, Hall said.

Big plays, big money

The financial effect of Miami University's 12-1 football team still is a little hard to measure, but there's no doubt it exists for those running the school in Oxford.

Royalties from sales of T-shirts, hats and mugs bearing Miami's name increased 24 percent through September, compared to the same period last year. And that doesn't even include the bulk of the football season in which the Redhawks have been on national television four times. The university has collected $125,257 so far, about what it collected for all 12 months of last year.

Miami gets 7.5 percent of every sale. The money goes for scholarships, half within the athletic department and half in the general scholarship program.

University officials acknowledge the impact. But they profess not to be nervous about whether Ben Roethlisberger - a junior and one of the nation's top quarterbacks - will leave the school after the season to play in the NFL.

"The alum who's out in Utah and sees a team that's winning, may very well hit the Web site and buy something," Miami's director of business services Paul Allen said. "Once you've got their attention, you'll keep it for awhile ... But I'm not sure Ben's personal decision is going to make much impact."


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