Meet the Merchant: Chad Talbott

Posted on 06/16/2017
June 16, 2017

Say hello to Chad Talbott! He's opening a second location for Topp'd, his pizza restaurant, at the Lenexa Public Market later this year. We asked Chad some questions about his business, the importance of supporting local entrepreneurs, and why he’s jazzed to join the Public Market. Here’s what he had to say.

Q. What’s the name of your business?

A. Topp’d Pizza + Salads

(The first location is near KU Med Center at 3934 Rainbow Blvd. in Kansas City, Kansas.)

Q. How’d you come up with this restaurant idea?

A. We do customized pizzas to order right in front of you so everyone gets exactly what they want and get to watch the whole process. I used to own and operate a buffet franchise that would happily make special requests, and over the last few years, it had been increasingly obvious that people all want to have a short-order cook at their disposal. Gone are the days where everyone orders off a cookie-cutter menu. Also, my concept included the no-freezer mantra, which is hardly ever seen in a pizzeria concept. All the chains out there do little to no preparation of their actual toppings, they merely assemble and cook everything together. I wanted a new concept that put the focus on the quality of the toppings, made in-house from scratch. Hence the term “Topp’d,” where the focus is on all the ingredients that go into making a great pizza, and nothing comes precooked or frozen in a bag.

Q. What do you really do?
A. I am the principal owner and in charge of the day-to-day operations. I wear a lot of hats, from pizza maker, marketing strategist, accountant to prep cook. Running a kitchen is hard work and not for the faint of heart.

Q. What excites you about the Lenexa Public Market?
A. I think Kansas City has been overdue for something of this caliber for a long time. It takes a lot of effort from the community to band together and support something of this size, and Lenexa is in a great position to lead the entire region with a brand-new concept that can be a model for other cities and communities to follow, that supports local businesses and brings the smaller guys to the masses in a very accessible way. A lot of people are hesitant to try out a mom and pop shop, but when they encounter them in the setting of the Public Market, it gives instant credibility to the businesses that otherwise might struggle to gain traction with the average consumer. Let’s face it, we aren’t all the adventurous people we aspire to be, and most people have a difficult time branching out beyond major known brands. This is what the Public Market will do, bridge the gap for those folks and get people experiencing new things.

Q. What might surprise someone to know about your business?
A. A ton of people think we are a chain because of the smoothness of the operation. Most people don’t realize it’s a small staff that keeps things going. We are like a family unit, always rolling with the punches and committing to getting a better product out there. In the end, though, it is just me and the good people behind the counter, without a big corporate backer or franchise contract. People always ask where our other locations are as soon as they step in the door.

Q. What makes your business unique?
A. We do all our dough, sauces, toppings, and dressings from scratch. Someone must individually prep each item that goes onto our make table before we can even think about topping a pizza with it. All our meats come in raw and are grilled, sliced, or cooked before you even get to the line. And nothing is allowed to touch a freezer, ever.

Q. What is one thing you hope customers say after they leave your restaurant?
A. Our goal is to wow customers with a much higher level of quality than you see at the big pizza chains, but without the price tag associated with a typical sit-down full service pizzeria. Our slogan is “Fresh. Fast. Yours.” We execute everything with those three ideas in mind.

Q. What made you get into this business?
A. I’ve been making pizzas since I was 15 years old. Started out washing dishes and bussing tables, and kept thinking that there was a better way to do things, something that really hits everyone’s tastes. Some people like the fancy stuff, and that’s great, but good old-fashioned pizza is not going out of style anytime soon. How many people have you met in your life that can honestly say they won’t eat pizza? It’s become a more American food than hot dogs or cheeseburgers.

Q. Why should people support local businesses?
A. Supporting a local business is a vote of confidence in your neighbors’ success. Everyone can turn on the news each day and complain about rampant corporatism and the fact that everything is becoming impersonal, online, and automated. People see constant news of giant companies taking over industries, and mergers making them bigger all the time. Supporting the little guy takes the power of your dollars and keeps them in your community, with people that care about your community, because they live and work there, too.

Q. What’s the coolest thing you’re working on?
A. I’ve always got crazy new ideas for things that I can make into pizza. I especially like the weird stuff that becomes like a fusion of a totally different cuisine, but on a pizza. Last year we did the restaurant week and I made actual braised short ribs and shredded them up with a sauce made from a wine reduction. I made thanksgiving dinner up at the shop and made it into leftovers pizza.  

Q. Favorite lunch spot?
A. Well, five or six days a week I’m slinging pizza for lunch! So usually I can tell you that I’m eating it too. But if I ever get time to grab lunch, Oklahoma Joe’s is the spot for a great BBQ sandwich. (Yes, I refuse to call it Joe’s KC, and yes, I only want to go to the dive located inside a gas station. Doesn’t get more KC than that, right?)

Q. Where might someone find you if you weren’t at work?
A. Most likely I’m at a park with my kids, being dragged around by a 3-year old! No place I’d rather be.