By Anna Grace Usery
One of Oxford’s newest pizza restaurants, Dodo Pizza, quickly became one of the community’s most loved places to grab a slice. Now the owner says the brand is pursuing an opportunity of a lifetime by expanding to California.
Alena Tikhova, owner and CEO of Dodo Pizza, began the Russian-based pizza company in Oxford in the summer of 2015. She then led the charge to expand into Southaven and Memphis shortly after. The store uses a unique approach to the regional marketplace by only serving high-grade ingredients like meats and cheeses flown in from New York, dough made from scratch in-store, and fresh herbs that top each slice of their premium pizza.
“The opportunity was a coincidence,” Tikhova said about moving the brand across the country. “We believe the Los Angeles area is a good market for us to be in.”
If God works in mysterious ways then so do restaurant owners. Tikhova said she received a call from another pizza brand owner offering the use of his failed brand venture to her.
“He had been following the Dodo Pizza brand for years,” she said.
The owner said the location was equipped with all the necessities of a restaurant including a “big, beautiful kitchen” and a place to grow their own vegetables. Essentially, the location just needed a brand that would sell. Tikhova and several Dodo Pizza investors stepped up to the challenge and accepted the call, nearly 2,000 miles from Oxford and nearly 6,000 miles from the Dodo Pizza home base in Syktyvkar, Russia. The new store, located 30 minutes outside downtown LA, will be located in neighboring Torrance.
Yet another feature of moving the brand to California will be its closeness to the epicenter of information technology, an integral part of the Dodo Pizza brand. Tikhova said the brand built its own IT systems to revolutionize the pizza delivery business. The Oxford location even has a 24/7 camera that allows customers to take a look at the production process.
“I think the California market would really like our approach to transparency and being big in IT,” Tikhova said.
Along with a new storefront comes new menu items. The Dodo Pizza in Torrance will offer thin crust pizza and new salad options, along with other vegan and vegetarian options — options that if go over well in California will make their way back to the Mississippi and Tennessee stores. The emphasis, still, will be on the freshness of ingredients and giving customers an authentic pizza experience.
Tikhova anticipates a late January, early February opening for the Torrance location.
“If we can make it work in California we can make it work anywhere,” Tikhova said.
She said members of the Oxford community played a huge role in the expansion, whether they were aware of it or not.
“We were so overwhelmed at how supportive the community was to us,” she said. “You cannot find that anywhere else. It was the push we needed.”