Snap Custom Pizza opens on Grand River, offering students food and work

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Jayna Bardahl

Behind the assembly line filled with fresh mozzarella, marinara and pepperoni stood Snap Custom Pizza founder Aaron Nocks, rolling fresh dough for each customer who stepped inside.

Snap Custom Pizza, a casual restaurant offering cooked-to-order personalized or speciality pizzas and fresh salads, opened Feb. 15 on East Grand River Avenue and M.A.C. Avenue.

“We are an assembly line type pizza place and we are really chef driven, so we have a great display of fresh products and fresh ingredients,” said Nocks, a Pennsylvania native. “We are very health conscious. All of our beverages from the fountain are made with natural cane sugar and then all of our salads and bowls have house-made dressings.”

Nocks said business has been successful. He  and the company started planning an East Lansing location last summer after seeing success at other college locations such as Penn State University and the University of Michigan.

“We feel like once people try it they’ll come back because they really enjoy it,” Nocks said. “Michigan State has a lot of students and that’s our niche. Students and younger people like our pizza, and it’s quick.”

eneral Manager Jennifer Leary said, “the natural thought process was we’re already in Michigan making our name, so State was the next big step. The numbers are good and better than we thought they would be. There has been a strong flow of customers and our staff is very excited about it. ” 

Nocks and Leary are part of a group of managers from Philadelphia helping the place open. She is here for four weeks to make sure the opening goes smoothly, and said working with a young staff makes it more enjoyable. 

“I love coming to work everyday whether it’s a five-hour shift or a 15-hour shift,” Leary said. “Having employees with that same mindset, getting the energy I give off back from them, makes the day go by so much better.” 

Expansion specialist Dan Chilla is another manager opening Snap. Being in charge of hiring, he also finds delight in the positive energy the employees give off. 

“We look for character, smiling faces and great personality, we are in the customer service business,” Chilla said. “We are right on display behind the glass every day so we want people who are comfortable there who are not afraid of engaging with customers and representing us. For me, a positive attitude is more important than anything.”

Chilla is here for three months to make sure Snap is ready to continue operating after he and Leary leave. So far, he said, signs are good that the staff and business are well set for their departures. 

“Since we have opened it’s been a great response, so I want to see more of the same,” Chilla said. “The smiling faces in here, from customers to employees, everyone seems to be having a good time. The kids here have been doing a great job and that’s my biggest thing, seeing them comfortable running the show.”

Antonio Baker was hired as an employee before Snap opened. Helping a new place open up drew him in, and his energy matches those of the managers. 

“I like working here a lot, it’s awesome,” Baker said. “I saw it as a fresh opportunity. I am really interested in starting businesses, and I saw what they were doing and thought it was cool. I always ride with people that follow their dreams.”

Sitting at a table anxiously awaiting their first day of Snap employee orientation sat a seven MSU students. They applied together as friends, spent the day planning their schedules, touring the building and learning the pizza process. Among them were Lauren Travis and Jenna Piotrowicz.

“I heard (about Snap) through my friend Ally,” said Piotrowicz, an MSU freshman. “She came in here randomly one day and she said that she really liked the vibes of it and decided to apply and they got back to her right away, so I decided that I wanted to.”

Travis said having a job will help her learn how to organize her responsibilities.

“I’m really excited about meeting new people and starting something new here in East Lansing,” said Travis, a business preference freshman. “I feel like starting a new job will keep me organized and keep on top of my schedule.”

“I think it’s going to be really fun,” Piotrowicz  said. “With food, you have to enjoy the people that are around you so I think it’s important to make it a good environment.”

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