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From left, Jason Graf, Paul Freeman, Ryan O’Reilly and Reed Hopper (of Westward Alliance) co-own BYOPizza. Cassie Whatley, center, manages the restaurant.
From left, Jason Graf, Paul Freeman, Ryan O’Reilly and Reed Hopper (of Westward Alliance) co-own BYOPizza. Cassie Whatley, center, manages the restaurant.

After months closed, BYOPizza quietly reopens downtown

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Last edited 1:33 p.m., Aug. 25, 2015

After months of renovation and rebranding efforts, as well as an ownership restructuring, downtown restaurant BYOPizza quietly reopened late last week.

Jason Graf, co-owner of the build-your-own-pizza concept, said the 431 S. Jefferson Ave. business held a soft launch at 5 p.m. Friday, and a grand opening could occur next week.

The rebrand includes a new logo - a pizza shaped like a saw - and such interior design elements as black pipes, concrete blocks and chain-link fencing.

“The entire brand itself is all built around that concept of building,” he said. “It’s very raw materials, a very construction feel.”

After Graf and business partner Paul Freeman of JP Advisors LLC joined with BYOPizza founder Michael Felts and Ryan O’Reilly of private equity firm Westward Alliance LLC to restructure the business in January, Graf estimated a March 1 reopening. The restaurant closed in November.

Graf said yesterday the lengthy rebranding process, as well as unforeseen problems during infill work, pushed back the reopening.

“The very first day of construction actually didn’t even start until April, so it was approximately four months from start to finish when we actually got to the point of being able to start work,” he said.

Among issues was the need to install a 52-foot ventilation pipe snaking its way through second-floor lofts, and confusion over the type of hood vent the city required for the restaurant’s oven, Graf said. The specialized oven can cook pizzas quickly.

“All the hiccups you might expect with infill on a very old building,” he said of the 1920s-built Wilhoit Plaza.

The renovation and rebranding process included doubling the restaurant’s square footage to 2,800 by leasing next-door space that previously housed a Planet Smoothie; installing the new interior design details; purchasing new equipment; and adding new ingredients. Graf declined to disclose project costs.

“There’s not one thing that is the same, other than the core concept of choosing your own crust, sauce, cheese and ingredients and cooking in 2 minutes or less,” he said.

On Jan. 9, Graf, Freeman, O’Reilly and Felts finalized an agreement to create BYOP Corporate LLC. The parent company, Graf said, seeks to launch franchises in such areas as Columbia and Fayetteville, Ark. The crew also is working to add delivery and a take-and-bake option to the Springfield store, but Graf declined to estimate the arrival of those plans.

BYOP Franchising LLC, a company Felts formed with former Dallas Cowboys player Daniel Loper, country music singer Jerrod Niemann and songwriter Richie Brown, owns a minority stake in BYOP Corporate LLC. Felts opened the Springfield store in December 2013, according to Springfield Business Journal archives.

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