Veteran restauranteurs continue to focus on community and fostering a team mentality moving forward.
Throughout college, Phil and Denise Downing were both delivery drivers for Toppers Pizza. Phil attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Denise worked at the first Toppers location in Whitewater while enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The two soon crossed paths through Toppers and it was love at first slice.
“We married soon after college and were both managers at the Madison Toppers location. One day, Phil asked if we should move to La Crosse, take the leap and open our own Toppers. I said yes, and that’s where it all started,” said Denise.
Phil and Denise broke ground on their first Toppers in February 2002 in La Crosse. When they opened, the brand was still new to the pizza delivery landscape, with around 10 locations in operation. The couple worked day and night to establish the Toppers name in La Crosse, providing quality service, building a trusted group of team members and working to better their town through their business. Today, the Downings have expanded out to run four locations in total – two in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin – and oversee around 130 team members.
“Phil and Denise are amazing ambassadors of the Toppers brand. Their company has a great culture of team members who continually give back to their local communities,” said Toppers Pizza Vice President of Marketing Scott Iversen. “Denise herself has done hundreds of pizza demos with area schools over the years, and their stores regularly partner with local organizations and schools to raise money through the Toppers Dough-Nation night program.”
Over the past two decades, Toppers has transformed from a career into a family for the Downings.
“Phil and I started out as delivery drivers and were given the opportunity and training to move up throughout the system and open our own store. Watching the brand grow from one location in Whitewater to more than 80 locations nationwide today has been incredible. We’ve spent more than half of our lives with Toppers Pizza and we couldn’t have found the success we have without the support of the corporate team in Whitewater, Toppers franchisees throughout the system and our amazing team members who put in 110 percent,” said Denise.
Looking ahead at the rest of 2018, the Downings are set on growing out their four Midwest locations by focusing on team members and providing quality pizza time after time.
“Phil and Denise fully embody our brand’s tagline of Never Settle. They have continually grown their company by helping their team members grow into being fabulous business people,” said Iversen. “Phil and Denise mean so much to Toppers Pizza; their passion and drive for the business makes all of us better.”