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Spokane pizza smith wins one of four spots in Blaze Pizza’s new ‘unternship’ program

Gonzaga University student Rourke Mackey, 22, was one of four applicants selected for a new, month-long “unternship” at Blaze Pizza headquarters in Pasadena, California, this summer. He works as a “pizza smith” at the only Blaze Pizza store in Washington state, located near the GU campus. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga University student Rourke Mackey, 22, was one of four applicants selected for a new, month-long “unternship” at Blaze Pizza headquarters in Pasadena, California, this summer. He works as a “pizza smith” at the only Blaze Pizza store in Washington state, located near the GU campus. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

He didn’t get to met LeBron.

But that was basically the only bummer during Gonzaga University senior Rourke Mackey’s “unternship” with Blaze Pizza, backed by the famous professional basketball player and recently named the “fastest-growing restaurant chain ever” by Forbes.

LeBron James has been part-owner of the fast-casual restaurant chain since its beginning. Mackey, 22, has worked there since last August.

“It’s the longest I’ve been at a job,” he said.

Over the summer, Mackey was one of four people from across the country to be selected for a first-time, month-long marketing internship with the company. The job – based at Blaze headquarters in Pasadena – included taking over the company’s Snapchat account, working on the company’s newsletter, writing blog posts and handling customer complaints.

“I felt so big-time because they flew me down there. They put me up. They posted three pictures of me on their Instagram,” Mackey said.

Plus, “We did tons of fun stuff.”

“Unterns” got to visit the General Mills plant in Vernon, California, and represent the brand at Vans Warped Tour and Dodger Stadium.

They had to be 21 or over, be a current Blaze employee submit an application video.

Blaze received more than 100 applications from employees in all of its markets. “Unterns” were paid $15 per hour and given apartments to share a few blocks from the corporate office.

“Blaze let me see the professional world in a way that was fun and efficient at the same time,” said Mackey, who’s been “pizza-smithing” for a year now, does “pretty much everything” at the store and said he loves it.

When he saw a flyer advertising the opportunity, he said he didn’t hesitate to apply.

Started in 2012 in Irvine, California, Blaze was founded by Elise and Rick Wetzel of Wetzel’s Pretzels. When the Spokane location opened two years ago, it was the chain’s first store in Washington. It remains the only Blaze location in the state.

Blaze specializes in custom, 11-inch thin-crust pizzas which cost about $8 each and are ready in about three minutes. Customers order at an assembly-line-like counter.

What else makes Blaze stand out? “We make our own dough,” Mackey said.

That’s important, he said, because, “You eat with your eyes. Our crust looks better. Our crust tastes better.”

Mackey had initially applied to work at Blaze because it’s close to GU, where he’s studying psychology. “Last summer, I didn’t have a car,” he said. “I could ride my bike here.”

Mackey grew up in Los Angeles and moved to Spokane to attend Gonzaga. Long term, he said he hopes to “do something in marketing” – or “be famous, be a movie star. That would crazy.”

Meantime, he’s working at Blaze and getting ready to go back to school at the end of the month.

He’d still like to meet LeBron – “I wish!” he said – and, maybe one day, work in marketing for the California-based company. “I would love to work for Blaze when I graduate. I just had that taste, and I want more.”

Blaze is at 926 N. Division St. On the web: blazepizza.com