When Johnny Bronx Pizza co-owner Judah DeVilbiss opened his new restaurant Monday, he expected excitement.
But not this much excitement.
Overwhelmed by ravenous customers craving New York-style slices, Johnny Bronx has temporarily shut down at 4970 N. Linder Road in Meridian — after 3 1/2 days in business.
The drive-thru and walk-up pizzeria has racked up six times the number of orders DeVilbiss and co-owner Matt Brown predicted. “It’s just been crazy,” DeVilbiss says.
He decided to close at about 1 p.m. Thursday. They plan to regroup, come up with a plan and reopen soon. An update video will be posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page by Friday.
“I can’t keep up with demand,” DeVilbiss admits. “It’s a great problem to have. But we’ve literally been climbing every single day.”
The 9- or 10-person staff blew through nearly 1,360 slices Wednesday, DeVilbiss says, and was sold out by 7 p.m.
On Thursday, the madness started early again. “We made it through 30 pies already this morning, and by 1 o’clock, I looked up, and I said, ‘I can’t.’ I’m staying up till 4 or 5 in the morning, taking a nap and getting up at 7, preparing and starting my day up again.”
Even with friends and family making mid-day supply runs, the restaurant has been crushed, he says.
“We had no dough. I was out of pepperoni last night. ... I don’t even know how many subs we went through and ice cream sandwiches. It was nonstop.”
An opening-day Idaho Statesman article — “New restaurant opens with NY-style pizza. And homemade ice-cream sandwiches? Uh-oh” — didn’t help. Or actually helped too much. “We had people drive all the way from Boise for the ice-cream sandwiches the day you posted that,” DeVilbiss says.
Unfortunately, the madhouse climate has resulted in service issues.
“People have to wait, 15, 20 minutes for slices of pie, and I don’t want that,” he says. “I want people to be happy with their experience here.”
There’s at least one slice of good news: DeVilbiss says Johnny Bronx Pizza has been getting positive reviews from East Coast transplants. “This makes me miss home,” he says a customer from the Bronx told him.
That dude is going to be missing more than home for a few days — or until whenever Johnny Bronx returns.
“We wanted to be a slow, steady start-up,” DeVilbiss says, letting out a tired chuckle. “It’s been the opposite of that.”
▪ Online: facebook.com/johnnybronxpizza.