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Nick Lessins and Lydia Esparza pride themselves on meeting high standards for quality, but not necessarily for catering to the demands of their customers. They are co-owners of Great Lake, a small Chicago pizza shop that has seen the mixed blessing of great reviews, reports The New York Times.

The couple wanted to start a business that reflected their values: a neighborhood shop that purchases top-quality ingredients directly from farmers, makes every pizza by hand and serves great food at affordable prices. They also wanted to make sure their business did not take over their lives. The 14-seat shop is open only four days a week and does not take reservations.

GQ’s food critic, Alan Richman declared the Great Lake Mortadella pie one of the best pizzas in America — and that is when the trouble started. The shop was mobbed, with lines stretching down the block and long waits.

“It’s nice that we got recognized for doing something we feel is good. The problem is GQ deals on a whole other scale than what our business is capable of handling. Everyone forgot we were this small operation and couldn’t serve everyone. We never intended to serve mass quantities and have our product available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We wanted to start a business so we could get some control in our lives,” says Lessins.

Q. Many business owners would look at your sudden success with envy and say, “Seize the day, expand, add new locations, franchise.” Why not you?

Ms. Esparza: It would change our values. That is the American way — to expand without really thinking.

Mr. Lessins: We really enjoy the work that we’re doing and we don’t want to cheapen it. Consciously or unconsciously — probably both — we’re trying to create a manageable way to earn a living and still maintain our sanity. We value time as much, if not more so, than money.

Continue Reading: “Small By Choice”

Photo by The New York Times.

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Originally posted by Rich Whittle on January 19, 2014 in Ideas.

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