Little Caesars pizza is returning quietly to the Kansas City area less than a year after the market’s longtime franchisee closed his last store and declared, “We’re done.”
Previous franchise owner Alan Knox of Utah had uttered that two-word epitaph after operating Little Caesars stores for 30 years. He had bought 16 Kansas City area stores nine years ago and owned 21 at one point.
Several of his stores closed unexpectedly just before Christmas 2017. Others followed, with the last shutting in September 2018.
It left the nation’s 30th largest market with none of the take-out pizza chain’s stores at the onset of football season.
One of Knox’s shuttered stores is set to reopen this week in Blue Springs, said Chad Curtis, co-owner of the Pick 6 group that acquired the franchise rights to the Missouri side of the Kansas City area. Curtis said he had reopened the Independence Little Caesars on U.S. 24 Highway in February.
Cutting Edge Pizza, a separate Little Caesars franchisee owned by Terry Huffman of Florida, acquired rights to the Kansas side of the state line and has reopened the Kansas City, Kansas, Little Caesars on 18th Street.
For Huffman, the deal marks a return to this market. He had owned the Little Caesars stores operating in the Kansas City market for a few years in the early 2000s.
Both Huffman’s and Curtis’ groups operate separately from Knox’s company.
“We bought some of the equipment out of this store and met Alan (Knox) for the first time,” Curtis said while working on reopening the Blue Springs store.
Knox lost all of his area stores amid a protracted legal battle with Little Caesar Enterprises in Detroit.
At one point, Knox had kept some of his stores open despite a federal court order to close them. Once Little Caesar Enterprises stopped shipping food, Knox’s last stores ran out of ingredients and closed.
The chaotic closings idled employees, bounced paychecks and confused customers, who sometimes were told that the stores’ closings would be temporary.
Knox had blamed his group’s demise on corporate pressures, including a push to open new stores and to sell Hot-N-Ready pizzas for $5. Knox charged $5.99 and said he couldn’t make money in this market at the $5 price.
A Little Caesar Enterprises spokeswoman confirmed the two franchises operating in the Kansas City market and said more stores would be opening.
Curtis said his group has operated Little Caesars stores in Tulsa for 13 years, is in good standing with Little Caesar Enterprises and embraces the $5 Hot-N-Ready price point.
Huffman, too, is on board with $5 pizza in the Kansas City market.
“There’s profit to be made at $5,” Huffman said.
Both groups are looking at other sites for Little Caesars stores. Neither expects to reopen other previous Little Caesars stores, citing lost leases and poor locations.
Mark Davis is a freelance writer in Kansas City.