Story and Photos by Gail G. Collins
In 2022, NiMarco’s celebrated 42 years in business. Making good pizza wouldn’t grow the venture; making the best pizza was the only option. Fresh, not frozen, dough, cheese grated daily, scratch sauce and of course, quality, creative toppings build their premium pizzas.
Their winning objective: To provide a great product with a smile and do so in a timely fashion.
Dough is critical to a good pie, and NiMarco’s makes it “Flagstaff-style,” a term coined to describe the thickness and texture that doesn’t easily fall into Italian regional categories. Daily, dough is mixed and kneaded.
NiMarco’s is particularly picky about cheese, sourcing an aged product and grating it fresh. “I’m paying someone hours each day to grate cheese,” says co-ower Dave Ledbetter, “but it makes all the difference—creamier, melts better and tastes best.”
The sauces are house-made from quality tomato products. In fact, Ledbetter visited the Modesto, California farms to see where his tomatoes are grown and packed.
Hands down, the most popular pie is the pepperoni pizza. The Popeye, jam-packed with a garlic butter base, piled high with spinach, Roma tomatoes, red onion, bacon and mozzarella is a top seller as well. South of the Border begins with green chili sauce, topped with jack, cheddar and mozz cheeses, jalapeños, black beans and fresh tomatoes to bridge the choice between Mexican and Italian for dinner. Monster meat is billed for the carnivore, loaded with the usual suspects plus handmade Italian sausage and ham. The homage pie, Gary’s Special, shoots the works with pepperoni, sausage, olives, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers.
Of course, there are veggie options, chicken or people can build their own pizza to include first-rate toppings, like artichoke hearts. Appi-teezers can front-load the meal with fried zucchini, calamari or cauli-fire—buffalo-styled, batter-fried florets—or keep it classic with wings and salad.
Even with a great menu, it takes great staff to keep it all together. “Our approach to business puts a lot of heart into it,” Ledbetter says. “We love and appreciate our staff and customers so much—we couldn’t do it without them.”
In fact, when he sees a customer outside of the shop, Ledbetter can lean into wife Angie and reel off the specific slices that fellow eats for lunch. The original shop boasts the largest list of regulars. When Thad walks through the door, bacon slices slide into the oven. The judge likes a slice of green chili.
The German Club has been meeting at the Beaver Street location on Thursdays for decades, regardless of thunderstorms or snowstorms. At 30 years, NiMarco’s created a banner to honor their tremendous loyalty.
“My favorite part is greeting people by name,” Ledbetter says.
He and Angie began as employees of NiMarco’s in college. Ledbetter later bought the pizza place from longtime owners and friends Gary and Karyn Reid. Ten years of branding led to a second location on Milton Road, and in 2019, opening the Eastside store, building NiMarco’s into a Flagstaff phenomenon.
In partnership with Tommy Glynn and wife Danny, the couples keep three shops humming.
“Arguably, the longest-standing owner in NiMarco’s history—over 22 years—we are hands-on operators,” Ledbetter says, “and nobody cares like an owner does.”
With multiple sites and 130 employees, Ledbetter credits Tommy Glynn for taking the operations by the horns, remaining vigilant of their objectives and impressing on staff their high standards of integrity and consistency.
Ledbetter would tell you, “The pizza business isn’t glamorous; we don’t do rocket science.” But over the years, a recession and a pandemic proved to be training grounds for performance under pressure and an opportunity to refine the processes and create a consistent product carried NiMarco’s forward.
“We’re around our product every day. We eat our product, and we enjoy seeing it go out the door,” he says. “Thanks to all who voted for us, and we commit to continuing to do the best we can.” NiMarco’s truly is a hometown pizzeria. BESTofFLG