Black Market Pizza Stays Afloat

At 2610 Northridge Parkway, pizzas are sold on the black market every day. It’s completely legal, but the entire operation was almost shut down this fall. Not by the Feds, but by the economy. A month ago, at the end of a roller-coaster summer, co-owner Greg Harvey and his partners came extremely close to having to close the restaurant. Black Market Pizza had just opened a new location in Ankeny when the floods hit Ames. “[The floods] really cost us a lot of business,” Harvey said. “Business was lost here for five days and for two days in Ankeny, because we couldn’t leave Ames to get there to open the place. And then, after that, people’s discretionary incomes dropped very low, so nobody was spending money, which was bad for business.” After the flood, Harvey and company had to make a tough decision. They talked to their accountant and it was clear that either the Ames or the Ankeny restaurant would have to go. “After the flood, it became apparent that we were going to have to close one of the stores. However, it was obvious which one to keep: our pilot, our flagship. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be back in Ames.” Black Market Pizza, the latest of Ames’ local pizza chains, was started in 2008 by Harvey and two friends. Harvey had arrived in Ames from Chicago in 2006, and immediately noticed a lack of deep-dish pizza in the area. “I moved out here, and nobody made pizza like I was used to,” said Harvey. “They made this ugly version of pizza. So I started messing around and making pizzas from my house. Before long I was making pizzas for my neighbors and their neighbors and it wasn’t very long before I had a pretty big following.” So, when Harvey and friends Jim Wilson and Ricky Van Voorhis were laid off from their jobs at U.S. Filter (now Siemens), they decided to turn Harvey’s hobby into a business. “My partner said, ‘I’m going to cash out my 401K and we’re going to be partners in this pizza thing you won’t shut up about,’” said Harvey. “And so, 19 months later, here we are.” Thank the pizza gods. Black Market Pizza lives on in Ames. In fact, it has just gained some new notoriety: it was recently featured on the TV show Man Vs. Food . Airing October 6 on the Travel Channel, the show spotlighted Black Market’s sweet potato crust and bacon cheeseburger pizza. Unfortunately, Adam Richmond (show host) did not attempt the Maui Waui, one of Black Market’s greatest claims to fame. Harvey takes every opportunity to proclaim the Maui Waui as the world’s hottest pizza. Its ingredients? Sausage, jalapenos, habaneros, pineapple, and the infamous ghost chili peppers that make wasabi seem like peanut butter. “They’re from the northern jungles of Siberia,” said junior Ryan Wengert. As of yet, this claim is unconfirmed. However, what is confirmed is the difficulty of eating an entire Maui Waui. If you do it in under an hour, you get your picture on the wall, a free Black Market t-shirt, and a lifetime of glory. But a caution to the faint of heart: be prepared, because this pizza is beyond hot. “It surpasses the normal spiciness, and ventures into the pain spectrum,” said junior Joel Uhlmeyer, a proud winner of the challenge. Whether you go to Black Market Pizza to attempt the Maui Waui, to try the recently-featured bacon cheeseburger pizza, or just to get a classic pepperoni slice, you’re sure to fall in love with the place. The mobster atmosphere makes for a great place to have dinner or just to chill for awhile. So next time you’re looking for a place to eat, stop by and let Black Market Pizza know we’re glad they’re still here.