Three childhood best friends are now successful business partners as the owners of a pizza and beer restaurant chain. Clint Grat, EJ Reed, and Derrick Moore, all African Americans, opened Slim & Husky's Pizza Beeria just last year and have since gained popularity -- not only for their delicious pizzas -- but also for creating opportunities for others in their community in Nashville, Tennessee.
The three Tennessee State University alumni, Reed, the "slim" and his college roommates Moore and Gray, the "huskies" who were both former football players, put together their money, which totaled less than $3,000, and started Slim & Husky's that features specialty pizzas and locally brewed beers.
The trio is actually no stranger to business. They started doing business when they launched a moving company called GT Services, which operated Green Truck Moving. It was rather successful but they wanted to push through with a passion project, opening a restaurant.
In August 2015, they bought a garage and there they worked with Chef Jason Williams to come up with the final products. To gain feedback, they hundreds of pizzas to the homeless and local community meetings. "We got no bad reviews," Moore proudly shared.
Moreover, they opened their first location of Slim & Husky's in March 2017 in a seemingly unlikely place in North Nashville. While 17 percent of residents in the whole city live in poverty, in North Nashville, it's 40 percent. The unemployment rate is also more than triple the rest of the city.
The friends thought that opening the business there would be a great opportunity to provide jobs for the unemployed and revitalize the area. And it worked! They had provided jobs and their business is thriving as well.
The Black influence is very much noticeable in the restaurant. The menu features 8 signature pizzas such as Red Light Special (Margherita Pizza), Rony Roni Rone (pepperoni-flavored inspired by Tony Toni Tone), and California Love (for vegetarians). They also play music and shows that feature Blacks. The three also make sure they only use the best and high-end in-house ingredients.
No wonder their patronizers extend up to the surrounding areas. In November 2017 and June 2018, they opened two new locations, one in Antioch, and another in North Nashville. They are open to more expansions but they don't prefer franchise as they want to make sure the "customers to feel the black excellence when they walk into our establishment," Gray said.
In order to maintain the business as well as their friendship, they said it is important to set aside their egos. "We don't try to take on the same roles," Gray said. "We focus on staying in each of our lanes: I'm Marketing/Branding, Derrick is Operations & Construction, and EJ is Finance & Admin/Growth Strategy."