Home » 'This couldn’t be a better Cinderella story': East side eatery Pizza Shuttle to become employee-owned – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

'This couldn’t be a better Cinderella story': East side eatery Pizza Shuttle to become employee-owned – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

by Arifa Rana

A year ago, Aaron Frick didn’t know what he wanted to do after graduating from Greendale High School, so he took a job at Pizza Shuttle to make some money and think about his next career move.  
He didn’t realize that he, along with 79 other employees, would become part owners of the longtime east side pizzeria. 
“I’ve been trying to learn how to invest for the last year or so, it’s complicated,” Frick said. “I think this will be a good way for people to learn, not only how it works but also a good way to get a little extra money in people’s pockets.” 
On Feb. 1, Pizza Shuttle employees could officially become part owners of the business as owners Mark Gold and Louie Siecinski prepared to hand the business over to the employees with the help of New York City-based Teamshares.  
Teamshares bought 80% of Pizza Shuttle, and Gold and Siecinski each own 10%. Gold and Siecinski will hold onto their shares for the next three years as the business transitions to the new ownership.  
On Feb. 1, 2023, the employees will own stock in the company and, over time, profits will be used to buy out Teamshares. The goal is that in 15 to 20 years, the employees will own roughly 80% of the business.  
“We’re going to have to be thinking of everything,” Frick said. “Everyone’s going to have to be doing a little bit more. They’re going to be thinking about how much money we’re going to be putting into other things and how much money we’re losing on certain things and to how to really maximize this great thing that’s happening to our company.” 
Gold said he and Siecinski had considered selling the business for the last several years, and even received offers from outside companies. They decided it was important that the ownership remain local.  
“I probably would have gotten more money, and I wouldn’t have had to hold any paper, you know what I mean? I could’ve just left,” Gold said.
“But it worked out for my employees, my daughter, my partner, myself, the community. We don’t want to see some people from, like, Ohio buying it.” 
Gold’s daughter Jessica is the general manager of the business he started with Siecinski in 1985. 
“This couldn’t be a better Cinderella story,” Gold said. “I was lucky, Louie and I, that we got out at the top of the game during a pandemic and we were able to help people that probably didn’t know that this even existed.” 
Gold said they have been in discussions with Teamshares for the last five months.  
“Pizza Shuttle is an exciting partnership opportunity for us. We have been impressed with Mark and Louis’ dedication and passion for the business they grew into a community staple,” Michael Brown, co-founder and CEO of Teamshares, said in a statement. “We are proud that Teamshares is becoming the exit strategy of choice for retiring small business owners because we offer the opportunity of ownership for dedicated employees and ensure the business can thrive for generations to come.” 
To help with the transition, Teamshares is offering managers who stay on for the next six months a $1,000 bonus but if they stay for a year they could get $2,000.  
Although the employees won’t be able to own their stock for a year, they will have access to a portal that can show them how much the stock is worth and they can opt to receive dividends from the company.  
“It’s going to help the employees who don’t plan on staying here 15, 20 years,” Frick said. “I think if we moved too fast and tried to cram everything in, I think it would be a little overwhelming … I think it will work out better for the employees if we gradually get there.” 
Frick admits the volatility of the market is “a little scary” but he views Pizza Shuttle not just as a job, but as a place where he can learn financial literacy after he leaves the business.  
“You’re learning something that you can use in your life after you leave Pizza Shuttle,” Frick said. “I can use this information to invest in other stocks.” 
In the past for many, Pizza Shuttle was just a job that helped pay the bills.  
“This place gives you the time and the ability to learn other things,” Frick said.
“Once you do figure out what you want to do and leave (Pizza Shuttle), you’ll have that extra money from the shares to help move yourself forward in life.” 
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