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Washington Voices

Business Focus: Brother’s Office Pizzeria a family affair

From left, in back Steve Foster and Ben Foster with Brother’s Office Pizzeria owners Tim and Jimmie Lo. The Fosters are Jimmie Lo’s brothers-in-law. (Colin Mulvany)
From left, in back Steve Foster and Ben Foster with Brother’s Office Pizzeria owners Tim and Jimmie Lo. The Fosters are Jimmie Lo’s brothers-in-law. (Colin Mulvany)

When Jimmie and Tim Lo opened Brother’s Office Pizzeria in late February, they didn’t hook up a phone for the new restaurant on 32nd Avenue in the Valley, just west of Highway 27.

“We got down to our last $11. We had to open the doors,” said Jimmie Lo, 33.

“We couldn’t even afford our own pizza,” added Tim Lo, 29.

The first night they served four customers, who came in off the street, curious.

“They must have told people. The next night we were packed,” said Jimmie Lo, adding that they’ve been busy every night since then, serving enough pizza and drinks to pay the bills.

The pizzeria, which seats 49 customers, serves hand-crafted, brick oven-baked, Neapolitan-style pizza. All the ingredients are fresh, said the brothers, noting they primarily purchase from locally owned URM.

“We shop for our own produce. We don’t use bagged veggies. It all comes whole,” said Tim Lo, holding up a fresh tomato and describing how each morning they cut the vegetables and meat for that day’s pizzas.

The restaurant also offers 10 rotating beers on tap, about 20 different wine selections and 30 different spirits.

“It’s a small concept,” said Jimmie Lo, while deftly forming uniform balls of dough for that day’s pizza, which they only serve in one size – 12 inches. “We have a small, limited menu. We don’t have a lot of space.”

He stopped for a moment to gesture at the well-organized kitchen, which is in full view of the restaurant.

“We have an open kitchen concept. It keeps everybody honest,” he said, noting they have about 1,000 functional feet after framing the bathrooms in the space that once was occupied by The Journal LDS Bookstore.

Jimmie Lo said he noticed the space and lack of quality restaurants in the Valley’s south side when he was in the area, riding a bus with his son.

“I realized this neighborhood needs beer and pizza,” he said. “The Valley needs more places to eat. We’d like to create what Perry or Garland has done, so people don’t have to travel.”

The name, Brother’s Office Pizzeria, reflects their fare and the fact that the restaurant is their work.

“It’s our office without the corner desk,” said Jimmie Lo, adding that they spend about 70 to 80 hours a week at the restaurant, with a part-time staff comprised of family and friends.

It’s the economic model they’ve employed since signing the five-year lease and enlisting the help of friends and family to remodel the small space.

Like their pizza, the place was hand-crafted, with the brothers watching YouTube videos to learn new remodeling skills.

“We figured it out,” said Tim Lo, noting they did everything themselves, from the framing and painting to electrical.

“We hand-built everything,” said Jimmie Lo. Most of the interior was reclaimed, recycled or second hand. The wood remnant bar top, for example, was refurbished by friend Tim Riordon.

Of the staff, Jimmie Lo is the only one with restaurant experience, he said – he worked at Bennidito’s Pizza on the South Hill for about eight years.

“I realized, you work so hard for other people, you may as well try it for yourself,” he said.

From the dough he forms each morning to toppings like palm-sized meatballs, each pie is meant to satisfy in an amiable atmosphere they hope keeps the customers coming back.

So far, they feel they’ve been successful. They’re busy, paying the bills and connecting with the south Valley neighborhood. “Most customers know someone in the restaurant,” said Jimmy Lo.

Unlike Coach’s and Bucks Pizza, which formerly occupied space in a neighboring strip mall before closing, Brother’s Office Pizzeria isn’t fast food-style carryout and delivery fare.

The brothers said they do accommodate carryout orders but customers must come in and wait their turn, typically about 30 minutes during dinnertime.

And they still haven’t hooked up a phone, because they said they’d prefer the staff stay focused on creating quality food and service for current customers, without the interruption of carryout calls.

“We want people to enjoy and relax,” said Tim Lo.