When Paul Ricci got his first job, it was meant to be just that: a first job. He was 15 and working for extra money at a local pizzeria. He didn’t know at the time that he’d found a long-term career.
Soon, however, Ricci realized he loved making food, and even more than that, he loved watching people enjoy it.
When Ricci was 16, he got a new job, this time at Tony’s Pizza in Flagler Beach. Soon, he was in charge of it. Within three years, he owned it.
“It felt pretty natural to buy the shop,” Ricci, now 19, said. “By now, no matter what, it’d feel weird leaving.”
The store became officially his April 1, when he finalized the sale of the business from his former owner and boss, Tony Delacruz. The Flagler Beach location was Delacruz’s 16th pizzeria, and he was ready for some time off, Ricci said.
Although he’d been managing the shop for some time, ownership brought a slew of new challenges, which were a bit overwhelming at first, Ricci said. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes aspects to owning a business, such as dealing with insurance and employee relationships. Ricci takes one day off each week, but he seldom feels as if he’s fully off the clock. At any time, a problem might arise that requires him to go in to the shop.
“You just have to take things as they come,” Ricci said. “You just have to take it one day at a time. I thought I knew it all, but I realized there’s a lot to learn.”
To help with that, Ricci created his staff of eight from people he trusts. When he decided to purchase the business, he called a former coworker, Paul Brum, who was living in Massachusetts, and hired him as general manager.
“He has a lot of restaurant experience,” Ricci said. “He knows what he’s doing — he’s teaching me stuff.”
His mother, Linda Ricci, also came to work at Tony’s.
“It’s nice to have people around that I trust,” Ricci said. “I think that will help us be successful.”
Despite the challenges, Ricci couldn’t see himself doing anything else. He hopes to eventually open more shops.
“I’ve always been pretty determined,” said Ricci, who graduated from high school with his associate's degree through a dual-enrollment program. “I’ve always worked hard, and I don’t plan to stop.”