Hoboken Pizza & Beer: How this local institution’s community ties helped them survive the pandemic.
As Pacific Beach locals, one of Reason Financial’s go-to joints in the area is Hoboken Pizza & Beer. This San Diego institution not only serves up some of the best slices in town, but they have been a staple in the PB community for almost 20 years. It is no secret that the last 18 months have been exceptionally difficult for small business owners everywhere, but with a strong work ethic, a supportive community, and a delicious product, Hoboken Pizza & Beer managed to stay afloat during the height of the pandemic. Owner Tony Kruk sat down with us to discuss more how he kept his small business alive during two extended tax seasons, all while giving back to his community.
Founded in 2003, Hoboken Pizza & Beer was conceptualized as an East Coast-meets-West Coast pizza place, bringing the magic of the New Jersey slice to San Diego. For nearly 20 years, Hoboken has been a hub for friends and family to meet for a beer and a meal, so when the COVID-19 crisis struck, Tony Kruk had to adapt to a new normal.
“We depend heavily on word of mouth, so when we didn’t have people inside our restaurant, it was much harder to get exposure,” Kruk said. But he did see one bright spot — increased volume and revenue through food delivery apps. When Tony recognized the prevalence of delivery apps in a world where nobody wanted to leave their couch, he pivoted his strategy towards a delivery app-based approach. In doing so, he was able to increase visibility to the restaurant and sustain his business. “Guidelines and regulations have been constantly up in the air for the past 18 months, so delivery apps were a good constant for us,” Kruk said.
Another integral part of Hoboken’s ability to weather the pandemic has been strong, consistent support from long-time regulars and other small businesses in the area. Tony became emotional while discussing the locals who continue to bring light and joy to the restaurant. Some of them have been Hoboken patrons for nearly twenty years, and their continued patronage has truly kept the family element of the restaurant alive.
Something Tony wasn’t expecting? Way that Hoboken and other local small businesses leaned on each other, rather than compete for patronage. “The two blocks surrounding Hoboken Pizza are like one giant family,” Kruk said. “We are always telling customers about each other’s businesses — like, ‘hey, you should go get Mr. Frostie’s ice cream after your pizza!’”
Giving Back Is Part of Hoboken’s Dna
Prior to the pandemic, Hoboken Pizza was very involved with community service; whether it was collecting supplies for and providing free pizza to the God’s Extended Hand homeless shelter, or collecting and matching donations to assist military families in need, Hoboken Pizza was always finding ways to give back. When the pandemic hit, Tony shifted his focus towards thanking the doctors and nurses of the greater San Diego area. Anyone who has ever stepped foot into Hoboken Pizza & Beer remembers the iconic dollar bill walls, collages of signed dollar bills that customers have tacked to the walls to commemorate their dining experiences over the years. Well, that wall is no longer, but not for no good reason — at the start of the pandemic, Tony and crew carefully removed $6,500 from Hoboken’s walls and donated every last penny to supply hospital workers with meals from local restaurants.
“Giving back is super important to us, so in addition to the $6,500 we donated from the walls, we gave away hundreds of pizzas to local hospitals,” Kruk said.
Thank you so much to Tony and everyone else at Hoboken Pizza & Beer for not only providing all of us with delicious food but for serving the Pacific Beach community for the last two decades. We think we could all be more like Tony, so after you’re done seeing us for your taxes, go see Tony for a slice — and maybe even Frostie’s ice cream after that!