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7 Facts About California Pizza Kitchen

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California Pizza Kitchen is credited with introducing the rest of the country to pizzas topped with things other than sausage, cheese and pepperoni, but it started as an idea between two friends who were looking for a new career path. Thirty years later, that idea has grown into more than 250 restaurants across the U.S. and Asia

1. THE CHAIN WAS STARTED BY TWO LAWYERS WHO WERE LOOKING TO LEAVE LAW.

Founder Larry Flax // Getty

Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield had been business partners prior to launching California Pizza Kitchen—the criminal defense lawyers had opened their own law practice, Flax & Rosenfield, together in 1973. But after years of stressful trials, the pair ditched their day jobs for another stressful profession—the restaurant business. They pooled their resources (which included $200,000 in loans and an extra $350,000 borrowed from friends) to open the first CPK in 1985 in Beverly Hills, California. "Everybody was saying, 'Two lawyers going into the pizza business? That's crazy,'" Rosenfield told The Wall Street Journal in 2009. "The bankers were mortified."

2. THE MENU WAS DEVELOPED BY A CHEF WHO WORKED AT WOLFGANG PUCK’S FIRST RESTAURANT.

Flax and Rosenfield knew they wanted their restaurant to be part of the wave of gourmet “California” pizza that had been pioneered by Wolfgang Puck just a couple of years earlier, so when they were developing their menu, they went straight to the source. Puck had once tasted a pizza topped with ricotta cheese, red peppers, pate and mustard, and immediately hired its creator, Ed LaDou, as a pizza chef for his first restaurant, Spago, when it opened in 1982. LaDou later teamed up with the men behind CPK to help them develop the menu for the restaurant and is credited with the creation of the chain’s BBQ Chicken pizza. Not a bad legacy.

3. THE NON-TRADITIONAL TOPPINGS ARE KING AT CPK.

Of course you can always just get a plain pepperoni slice, but the restaurant’s signature BBQ Chicken pizza—crust topped with barbecue sauce, smoked Gouda, red onions and cilantro—is what put California Pizza Kitchen on the culinary map. Today, diners can order pizzas in off-the-beaten path varieties such as Thai Chicken, Wild Mushroom and California Club—which comes topped with avocado, arugula, basil, and romaine that has been tossed in a lemon-pepper salad dressing.

4. THE BRAND UNDERWENT A MAJOR RENOVATION IN 2015 FOR ITS 30TH ANNIVERSARY.

In what current CEO G.J. Hart deemed the “Next Chapter,” 80 California Pizza Kitchen locations spent 2015 getting an upgrade that included new tables, decor and an open-air design to create a more rustic ambiance and a brand new menu that included items beyond pizza (like cocktails!). "Our core guest is sophisticated," Hart said last year. "We have a lot of younger foodies." The rest of their locations will be getting their upgrades shortly, creating an environment where diners will want to relax and stick around after finishing their slices.

5. PEPSICO USED TO OWN A MAJORITY STAKE IN THE COMPANY—BUT ALL THAT MONEY NEARLY DOOMED THE CHAIN.

In 1992, the soft drink giant paid nearly $100 million for a 67 percent stake of California Pizza Kitchen and launched the company into an era of unbridled growth that almost killed the chain. Locations opened quickly in cities that weren’t familiar with the restaurant, with diners who weren’t willing to pay a few extra bucks for a pizza. “We made the classic mistakes,” Rosenfield told Los Angeles Magazine. He called it their “Field of Dreams period—build it and they will come. Except that they didn’t.” A private equity firm bought out Pepsi’s two-thirds stake five years later and installed a new CEO.

6. CPK WAS ONCE TRADED ON THE STOCK MARKET.

During the post-Pepsi period of CPK, the company made its debut as a publicly traded business, and after a short period of promising numbers, the numbers sank and the reins of the company were handed back to Flax and Rosenfield in 2003. "Larry and I were pretty insecure," Rosenfield said about their position at the time, after years of being told they were best at PR and weren't up for running the business side. The company was eventually bought by firm Golden Gate Capital and pulled from the public market.

7. DINERS CAN ROUND THEIR BILL TO HELP CHILDREN.

CPK partnered with the Make-A-Wish Foundation last year, allowing patrons to round their bill up to the nearest dollar and donate the change. Thus far, the chain has raised $250,000 for the wish-granting charity [PDF]. CPK locations also host build-your-own-pizza events for kids, and the company donated over $1 million through fundraisers and in-kind donations to non-profits.

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The Little Known Airport Bookstore Program That Can Get You Half of What You Spend on Books Back
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Inflight entertainment is a necessary evil, but the price can quickly add up without the proper planning. Between Wi-Fi access and TV/movie packages, you can run into all kinds of annoying additional charges that will only increase the longer your flight is. Thankfully, there is one way to minimize the cost of your inflight entertainment that’s a dream for any reader.

Paradies Lagardère, which runs more than 850 stores in 98 airports across the U.S. and Canada, has an attractive Read and Return program for all the books they sell. All you have to do is purchase a title, read it, and return it to a Paradies Lagardère-owned shop within six months and you'll get half your money back. This turns a $28 hardcover into a $14 one. Books in good condition are re-sold for half the price by the company, while books with more wear and tear are donated to charity.

If you haven’t heard of Paradies Lagardère, don’t worry—you’ve probably been in one of their stores. They’re the company behind a range of retail spots in airports, including licensed ventures like The New York Times Bookstore and CNBC News, and more local shops exclusive to the city you're flying out of. They also run restaurants, travel essentials stores, and specialty shops. 

Not every Paradies Lagardère store sells books, though, and the company doesn’t operate out of every airport, so you’ll need to do a little research before just buying a book the next time you fly. Luckily, the company does have an online map that shows every airport it operates out of and which stores are there.

There is one real catch to remember: You must keep the original receipt of the book if you want to return it and get your money back. If you're the forgetful type, just follow PureWow’s advice and use the receipt as a bookmark and you’ll be golden.

For frequent flyers who plan ahead, this program can ensure that your inflight entertainment will never break the bank.

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Former NECCO CEO Has a Plan to Save the Company

It’s been a month of ups and downs for fans of candy company NECCO and its iconic sugary Wafers. In March, The Boston Globe reported the company is in desperate need of a buyer and that CEO Michael McGee notified the state of Massachusetts that most of their employees—around 395 of them—would likely face layoffs if a suitor isn't found by May.

That news caused a bit of a panic among candy lovers, who stormed CandyStore.com to hoard packs and packs of NECCO Wafers, should the company go under. In the weeks since the news about NECCO’s uncertain fate hit, sales of the company's products went up by 82 percent, with the Wafers alone increasing by 150 percent.

Seeing the reaction and knowing there is still plenty of space in the market for the venerable NECCO Wafers, the company’s former CEO, Al Gulachenski, reached out to CandyStore.com to lay out his plan to save the brand—most notably the Wafers and Sweethearts products.

The most important part of the plan is the money he’ll need to raise. Gulachenski is set to raise $5 to $10 million privately, and he’s creating a GoFundMe campaign for $20 million more to get his plan into motion. Once the funding is secure, the company will move to a new factory in Massachusetts that allows them to retain key executives and as many other employees as they can.

“I can promise you that if you donate you will own a piece of NECCO as I will issue shares to everyone that contributes money,” Gulachenski wrote on the GoFundMe page. “This company has been in our back yard for 170 years and it's time we own it.”

Gulachenski also elaborated that, as of now, there is another buyer interested in NECCO, but that buyer “is planning to liquidate the company, fire all the employees and close the doors of NECCO forever!”

So far, Gulachenski has raised only $565 of the $20 million needed. “I know it seems like a long way to go but I do expect some institutions to jump on board and get us most of the way there,” Gulachenski wrote in a GoFundMe update. “It is also likely we can get most of the company if we get to half of our goal.”

There is still a bit of a sour taste for candy fans to swallow, even if NECCO does get saved. According to Gulachenski, the Wafers and the Sweethearts may be the only products that the reorganized NECCO continues with. This could leave lovers of the company's other candies, like Clark Bars and Sky Bars, out in the cold.

“The sugar component Necco Wafer and Sweetheart is certainly the most nostalgic and recognizable brand, more than the chocolate,” Gulachenski told The Boston Globe. “It’s all going to depend how they decide to sell the company and liquidate.”

While you can still order the Wafers in bulk from Candystore.com, the site itself even says it has no idea when or if shipments will stop coming, especially as NECCO's future remains uncertain.

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