Valentine’s Day is a big day for Hackensack resident Cindy Paulsen.
That’s because Valentine’s Day marks another anniversary of the opening of her restaurant, Lucette’s Pizza & Pub.
This year Lucette’s celebrates a milestone that many local restaurants don’t reach, its 10-year anniversary. Owner Paulsen said she has kept the business running with dependable staff, innovative food and strong marketing. To celebrate the restaurant’s 10-year anniversary, she has specials in mind.
Lucette’s opened on the corner of Highway 371 and Whipple Avenue in February 2003. Before then, the property had been empty for 11 months. The location had seen life as a restaurant twice before, once as Senior Fuzzie’s and once as the Yukon Jack Sports Grill.
Paulsen chose to open her doors on Valentine’s Day for a very special reason.
“We opened on Valentine’s Day because Lucette is Paul Bunyan’s sweetheart,” Paulsen said.
In the beginning, Lucette’s faced its fair share of difficulties. Since the building was out of operation and empty when purchased, there was no established menu, no established staff and no returning customers. In the 11 months the doors had been closed, locals and tourists alike had come to the building and found the doors locked. As a result, those same people were now customers at other area restaurants.
“It was really challenging in the beginning,” Paulsen said. “We basically started from scratch.”
Paulsen had to set her business apart from other dining locations in the area. She chose to specialize in a food that everyone likes: pizza. Many restaurants make pizza, but not all make pizza like Paulsen. Her sauce is homemade, the cheese is grated at the restaurant, the veggies are purchased fresh and cut up on location and even the dough is homemade.
Ten years later, Paulsen’s plan worked. Along with a full menu of entrees, Lucette’s sells about 40 pizzas a day with a record high of 223 pizzas in one day.
In spite of this success, Lucette’s faces many of the same challenges as any other business. Decisions and changes must be regularly made to keep the establishment’s seats filled. Over time, the restaurant has added a Friday all-you-can-eat fish fry, a special senior dining club and weekend breakfasts courtesy of a former IHop cook.
Locals know that running a business is no easy task. Paulsen credits the survival of her restaurant to unique dishes, dedicated staff and marketing.
Lucette’s is one of the larger employers in Hackensack. During the summer the restaurant has a staff of more than 30 employees, many of whom have been around almost since the start of the business.
Paulsen also makes her business special through menu expansion and increasing services. Every two years she attends the Las Vegas International Pizza Convention to keep her business state of the art. There she comes up with some of her signature pizzas like the Lucette garden pizza with ranch sauce and the hot volcano pizza. A spaghetti topped pizza has also proven popular with children.
“Most Italian restaurants offer spaghetti and pizza, so why not mix the two?” Paulsen said.
The economic hardships of 2012 hit many area businesses hard, including Lucette’s.
“Every year, Lucette’s has always had an increase in customer base and sales,” Paulsen said. “This last year, 2012, was the first year our sales have ever declined.”
In addition to the economic downturn, Paulsen said she cut spending on marketing and advertising for 2012. As a business owner who named her business after a local icon, she believes in the power of branding and marketing. She even suggested that her decline in sales may have been connected to her decrease in marketing. She has since begun advertising again.
“I think advertising is key,” she said. “I do a lot more advertising than other restaurants. You just need to get your name out there.”
In spite of all the difficulties faced, Lucette’s has prevailed and, this Valentine’s day, begins a year-long celebration of its 10th anniversary. In February, this celebration includes an offer of two hamburgers for the price of one. March will bring 14-inch pizzas for $10. And that’s only the beginning.