Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza: Inspires Loyalty From Customers & Staff
There’s a relaxed, laidback feeling at Jockamo Upper Crust Pizza that has successfully been duplicated at all three of its Indiana locations.
Customers and employees at each restaurant are loyal devotees, continuously coming back for the unique and delicious pizzas, salads, entrees and drinks.
Mick McGrath, one of four co-owners and founders, said he is still touched by the loyalty of his longtime customers and staff.
“I’m very proud of the fact that a lot of our customers go to all three locations, even if they don’t live nearby,” McGrath stated. “A lot of our kitchen and wait staff have worked for us for almost nine years. It’s a nice place to eat and work, and I’ve tried very hard to create that atmosphere at all three restaurants. I also try to use as many local ingredients as I can.”
Ana Larman, a server at the Lawrence location who is starting her own business, Tend & Yield Gardens, said McGrath agreed to buy her herb products for Jockamo’s when she has them ready to sell.
“Getting Jockamo’s on board was huge and a great way to get started,” Larman said enthusiastically. “Jockamo is very loyal to its employees and customers.”
McGrath co-owns the Jockamo restaurants with his wife, Nancy Duncan, and Bob and Laura Stark. The first Jockamo’s location in Irvington, 5646 E. Washington St., started in October 2007. It was so successful that an expansion was eventually needed.
“We were so tight on seating on Fridays and Saturdays, we reached a plateau,” McGrath said. “We had an hour and a half wait. We were also crowded on weeknights, so we added a party room and added 60 more seats by taking the space next door when it became available.”
Jockamo’s was also so popular that McGrath and his co-owners eventually decided to open a Greenwood restaurant location, 401 Market Plaza, in 2010.
“A lot of people came to Irvington from the southside because they loved the pizza, so we looked at two or three buildings and settled on our location in old Greenwood,” McGrath noted. “It was perfect. The Greenwood location has created the same loyalty.”
The Lawrence location, 9165 Otis Ave., Indianapolis, opened in May 2015.
“In Lawrence, the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority approached us about opening a location in Fort Harrison,” McGrath said. “We get a lot of customers from the Geist area and from all over that area. We are fortunate because there isn’t anything like Jockamo in the area. We don’t want to go to an area with similar outlets. It’s something I learned a long time ago.”
McGrath, a Carmel High School graduate, worked his way through college by working at various bars and restaurants, including Bazbeaux Pizza in Broad Ripple for several years. He managed the restaurant for over 10 yeas. He graduated from IUPUI with a Journalism degree. He worked for United Press International after college but was later laid off.
“I returned to the restaurant business to pay the bills and decided to start Jockamo with my wife and the Starks,” McGrath stated. “They lived two doors down from us in Irvington, and when it was time for me to start Jockamo, I approached them.”
McGrath, who writes the Jockamo radio ads, was shooting for a place similar to his earlier employer: Bazbeaux Pizza.
“The owners were very supportive when I told them I was going to leave and start my own restaurant,” McGrath said. “Since Jockamo started, we have won two first place awards for best pizza in the NUVO Reader’s Poll and were an Indy A-List Winner four consecutive times.”
One thing that won’t change at Jockamo is the delicious pizza and creative names on the menu, including Slaughterhouse Five, an all-meat pizza in honor of Kurt Vonnegut.
“The Slaughterhouse Five is still our most popular pizza at all three locations,” McGrath said.
Other popular pizzas include Miami Vice, a Cuban pizza; Seoul Man, a Korean pizza; and the Lazy Boy, an everyday pizza. McGrath doesn’t want to mess with what has been popular with customers and staff.
Josh Smith, general manager of the Jockamo Greenwood location, said, “I love the fact that 98 percent of what we send out to the customers was made from scratch. We pride ourselves on the entire dining experience. It’s not just about the food. The emphasis on service, all the way to beer and wine pairings, is just as important.”
Smith believes “the difference between Jockamo and other restaurants is the true family feel that we have company-wide. From Irvington to Fort Ben, we truly are friends and family. We all strive for a common goal, and that is being the best pizza restaurant we can be. Mick allows his general managers the ability to try new ideas and put them to work in the restaurant. Some ideas work and some don’t, but we are all part of learning and growing.”
McGrath is also satisfied with three locations and has no plans to start a fourth.
“The thought of starting another one is just too exhausting to think about. I would not want to go to a market with a lot of pizza places. The reason I would not want to go to Broad Ripple, downtown and Carmel is out of respect for Bazbeaux.”