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9 Things You Might Not Know About Sbarro Pizza

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The go-to pizza shop of mall food courts across the country started as a small Italian grocery in Brooklyn run under the strict eye of "Mama" Sbarro. Read on for 10 facts about the company Michael Scott once called his "favorite New York pizza joint."

1. FOUNDER CARMELA "MAMA" SBARRO USED SEWING MONEY TO OPEN THE FIRST SBARRO.

Carmela grew up in Italy working in a Naples butcher shop. In 1956, she moved her husband, Gennaro, and three sons to Brooklyn; Gennaro and two of the boys went to work in local Italian shops. Mama, with needle and thread in hand, saved the money she made sewing doll's clothes in order to open their own "salumeria"—an Italian grocery store.

2. THE FIRST SBARRO DIDN’T SELL PIZZA.

Mama Sbarro used her knowledge of Italian meats and cheeses to open her own Italian grocery store that sold fresh prosciutto, cured meats, and smoked mozzarella in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn in 1956. Eventually, the deli and hot foods section of the store took over and Sbarro added pizza to their menu.

3. MAMA WORKED IN THE ORIGINAL STORE FROM THE DAY IT OPENED TO THE DAY IT CLOSED.

Regulars in the neighborhood remember Mama Sbarro as a force to be reckoned with when she was behind the counter, serving chicken parmigiana and cheesecake in high heels. She wanted things done the right way—in particular, customers knew never to ask for ketchup or mayonnaise on a prosciutto sandwich. "I don’t do that," she would say. "You want mayonnaise on your sandwich, go somewhere else." The original location closed in 2004 when Mama was unable to continue running the kitchen due to health issues.

4. THE CHEESECAKES ARE STILL HER ORIGINAL RECIPE.

Mama Sbarro personally made every cheesecake sold at all Sbarro stores until the demand became too much and her son convinced her to get a supplier. She eventually agreed, but the baking of nearly 1000 cheesecakes every week was always completed under Mama’s watchful eye.

5. THE COMPANY’S BIG BREAK WAS AT A MALL IN BROOKLYN.

In the early days of the food court, hungry shoppers were given mainly the option of snack foods—pretzels, ices, cookies—when they were shopping. When the Sbarros went to the food court of the King’s Plaza Shopping Center in Brooklyn, they saw a bunch of hungry shoppers who looked like, to the Sbarros, people who could use some pizza. The family went to work developing a food court-concept for their store and started opening stores in malls, airports, universities, movies theaters, and toll road shopping plazas.

6. THERE IS A SBARRO LOCATION IN THE PENTAGON.

Today, there are 800 Sbarro locations across 33 countries, including the concessions of the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. Pizza lovers in India, Turkey, and Jerusalem are also able to get their own New York slice.

7. THE SBARRO FAMILY IS NO LONGER INVOLVED WITH THE COMPANY.

Sbarro launched into the American pizza game by tying itself to the shopping mall, which also means that the company’s successes and failures are closely tied to those of shopping malls. In 2006, the company was bought from the founding family by a private equity firm, and just five years later Sbarro filed its first Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company emerged but it still trying to put itself back fully on its feet. Sbarro is now owned by two private investment firms and current CEO David Karam.

8. SBARRO STARTED DELIVERING THEIR PIZZA IN 2015.

Unfortunately, though, only to those who live in the delivery zone of their first free-standing store in Columbus, Ohio. Adding delivery was one of many steps the company took to rebrand itself after a second round of money issues that led to the closing of 155 of its 400 locations in North America. Sbarro also updated their logo and changed their marketing to a "pizza-centric" focus that emphasizes on the quality of their ingredients and the history of the Sbarro family.

9. SBARRO IS LOOKING TO GRAB A PIECE OF THE FAST CASUAL PIE.

Sbarro launched its first sit-down made-to-order restaurant in Columbus, Ohio in 2013. Cucinova features a Chipotle-style menu that allows diners to create their own salads, pastas, and Neapolitan pizzas cooked in a woodfire oven. The company hopes to grab the attention of trendy, food-minded millennials who might not even know that they’re eating in a Sbarro brand restaurant.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
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Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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Design
The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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