Rob Coffaro says simplicity, hard work and a little luck saved his shop.
Coffaro, owner of Coffaro’s Pizza, founded his business on a simple principle: “We do it better.”
The SRU graduate said he created the motto 26 years ago on a whim.
“I just want to be better at whatever I am doing,” the owner said. “Do one thing better than anybody else. Do that one thing you want to do, better.”
Inspired by a lack of job opportunities in the sports management field, Coffaro founded his pizza shop at 23, shortly after graduating.
He said he could have founded a business of any type, but after his internship working for a pizza shop, he had already gained experience in the industry. His original goal was to open 10 shops in 10 years.
“I wanted to run my own gym, that’s what I thought I would be doing, or working for some baseball or football team. But going through interviews after my internship was over, there were no jobs paying me better than what I was doing already,” Coffaro said. “It was just in the moment. It could’ve been anything else.”
Starting in 1998, Coffaro specialized in pizza, serving the Slippery Rock community from his original shop’s location on 152 South Main St.
“Trends don’t normally last. People have been eating pepperoni and cheese pizza forever,” the owner said.
Aiming to tackle his ambitions of a pizza empire, Coffaro opened another location in Grove City in 2005. Shortly after opening, he realized running two establishments did not align with his identity.
“Having my name on the building, the things that go on when you’re not there, I didn’t like. I needed to be here to make sure my customers are getting taken care of the way I wanted,” he said. “After having two of them, after having kids, I couldn’t be two places at once.”
Coffaro eventually decided he could not do both, relieving himself of his duties at the Grove City location.
“Things just always work out, somehow, I don’t know how. Every time I think we are about to be at the worst part and it’s not going to work out ever again, it always just works out. I don’t know if it’s lucky or the time and effort put in,” Coffaro said, referring to his life-work balance and being busy enough to staff additional employees.
After leaving his Grove City location, Coffaro moved from Slippery Rock’s Main Street into his current building on 216 Grove City Rd., with ambitions to add bowling to the business.
Although his shop initially survived the economic onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was hit by his bowling alley investment. Coffaro said he was not sure if they would ever recover from the amount of money spent on upgrading the pin machines only months before the pandemic.
“For the longest time I said business in Slippery Rock will always be good because the only thing that could change is the university shutting down, but there was no reason for it to before,” he said.
However, the pandemic changed that. Coffaro’s Pizza initially made it through the onset of the virus, thanks to delivery and takeout options, but after a shortage of staff, the bowling aspect of the business eventually shut down and resurrected only recently.
Coffaro also said it was difficult to keep up with the changing environment of business ownership in recent years, especially battling with corporations that were permitted to stay open during the pandemic, profiting by the lack of competition.
“I agree, people should make more, but you can’t just go from this to that, you can’t compete,” he said. “You’d be doing what is probably right, but you’d be out of business. The big shops can take the hit longer, that’s how they usually win out.”
Coffaro said he is thankful for the customers during the pandemic for giving generous tips to the staff and helping them stay in business.
“I just appreciate everybody in town, all the students, everyone who comes through the door. Without them, I wouldn’t still be doing this, so I do appreciate it.”