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The Street Party has a lot to offer in the way of food – but one staple business that returns every year is Grand Rapids Pizza & Delivery. They've been in business on State Street for over 10 years, and they've been a vendor at Street Party for about as many years. I interviewed Mike Raymond, owner of GRPD and long time Local First member, about his business and why he keeps coming back to Street Party.
LF: You have a themed pizzeria – how do you come up with your pizza combinations and pizza names?
GRPD: My sons come up with a lot of the pizzas, but we also like our staff to be creative and have a hand in it. They put together different bases & toppings and then run it by our customers as a litmus test.
I’m a fan of the old murder mysteries and cop shows, so our pizzas are named after classic TV shows and movies. Right now we have names like the Columbo, the .357, the Serpico, and the Dick Tracy. I’m sure in the future we’ll see stuff coming like the Jackie Chan, or Lethal Weapon 2, or Die Hard.
There’s also a lot of good will and humor between us and the Grand Rapids police department – a lot of our clientele are police officers. When we first became GRPD, an officer actually pulled our vehicle over citing the fact that he didn’t think it was appropriately named. We told him it was trademarked and jokingly asked him to remove it from his car. Since then, that police officer has become one of our better customers and is a big proponent of ours.
LF: Why do you keep coming back to the Street Party?
GRPD: We’ve been part of the Street Party since the second year it was around. We are particular about the types of festivals and community events that we participate in, but we really like this event because we support the local community and kids – kids are a big part of who we are. I try to do any type of event that promotes family or kids. Plus theentertainment down there is really outstanding.
The Street Party really showcases what Grand Rapids has to offer. There’s a lot of great food vendors down there that are utilizing local ingredients and produce. It all kind of ties together with what we do.
And you know, every year my staff fights to work the booth at Street Party. It probably doesn’t hurt that there’s beer there either.
LF: So talk to me about this Unofficial Local First pizza.
GRPD: If you know anything about me or GRPD, you know we’re not the typical pizza place. We always try to do things outside the box. But we also like to color inside the lines too.
I took a throwback to ancient times when there was a pizza created for the royalty in Italy at the time. It was called the margherita pizza and it was an homage on behalf of the community. So I thought, wouldn’t it be neat to create a pizza that’s an homage to our local community and Local First. So we created this pie called the Local First. It it aspinach, tomato, aged cheese, & aged feta pizza.
<<Sidenote: I went to GRPD and did some investigations myself - The Local First is indeed a refreshing take on the margarita. I know I couldn't stop eating, *ahem* researching, this pie.
It was kind of a flukey thing, we didn’t think we were going to sell a lot of them. What happened was, the first year that we did it, our staff went absolutely out of their minds because it just took off like a rocket. It’s a really flavorful pizza and people really like it. The second year, people were asking for it, and by the third year it was just a given that we had to have it there. It’s something we started as a novelty for Local First, but this year we decided to put it on our new menu because people love it.
LF: What will you be bringing this year?
GRPD: Small personal pizzas as usual. We might bring the Barney Fife – which is not your mama’s cheese pizza. It has an alfredo base, amazing cheeses, and it almost tastes like macaroni. We’ll definitely have pepperoni pizzas there, and, of course, the Local First - there will be something for everyone.
You can try the Local First or other GRPD pizza’s at Street Party this Saturday, June 7, from 3 pm to midnight. This event is free to attend, and you can buy food and beverage tickets at the event.