JACKSON, Mich — It is the first of its kind. Not just in Jackson, but in the entire country, a 24/7 artisanal pizza vending machine.
Put your money in, make your selections and three minutes later you get hot, fresh pizza.
"We're bringing something new and innovative," Jackson Pizzaforno Chief Operating Officer Tim Ekpo said. "The first in the United States to Jackson, Michigan. You know, I don't think a lot of people think of Jackson, Michigan, when they think of innovation, when they think of the latest and greatest. Now maybe that focus will change a bit."
Ekpo is an orthopedic surgeon. Co-owner Adam Page works in the medical device field. They've been friends for most of a decade.
During a family trip to Toronto, Ekpo came across a unique vending machine, Pizzaforno, which comes from Canada.
"Me and my family bought the whole pizza out of the machine," Ekpo said. "It was a great taste. It had a great flavor. With that in mind we thought it would be a great idea stateside. So, we decided to bring it over."
Here is how it works: There is a refrigerated portion of the machine as well as an oven portion to cook it. It can hold up to 70 pizzas. The pizzas are freshly made, placed and ready for consumption. The pizza is then conveyed into the oven. Minutes later it comes out in a box, ready to eat. You can also get the pizza cold. There are instructions on the back of the box that shows you how to make it.
"My personal favorite is honey and goat cheese. The flavors together are so good," Ekpo said.
There were some bumps in the road. They planned on launching their Pizzafornos in March 2020 but then COVID hit. They spent the past year fine tuning their system that launched Wednesday.
"We are both pretty driven people," Page said. "We are passionate about being entrepreneurs. We feel like we have an eye for certain special opportunities. Pizzaforno being one of them."
They chose Jackson as their location out of familiarity.
"I consider myself a Jacksonian as most of the patients that I treat are from the city of Jackson," Ekpo said. "We're really excited to launch Pizzaforno especially in our own backyard."
"Jackson is sort of our home base," Page said. "We've done a lot of business in Jackson. We both work in that health care setting. It's sort of our hub and our home and we feel comfortable here. On top of that you can get just about anywhere from Jackson. The highway system is very well connected here."
Page and Ekpo plan on opening more Pizzaforno's. They plan on taking an 'aggressive' approach starting by opening many locations throughout Michigan, then taking it regionally, then eventually throughout the country.
The vending machine is located at 100 S. Cooper St. You can pay through Google Pay, Apple Pay, or by card. The price range is $9 to $13. They plan on launching an app so you can order pizza through your phone.
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