• Eatza Pizza unit posts strong sales in hurricane-battered Mississippi

LAUREL, Miss.—Six months ago Mark and Ashley Stapp of Laurel, Miss., relocated their family to Scottsdale, Ariz., in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. To make matters more challenging, the couple was in the midst of trying to build the southeast's first Eatza Pizza restaurant in this small Mississippi town.

According to a news release, in February they accomplished that goal and posted first-week sales of $58,500, a company record.

"We had planned for a strong reception from the citizens of Laurel and our three surrounding counties," Mark Stapp said, "but evidently word spread throughout the area about the concept, high food quality and affordable prices, and we were truly stretched to our limits. But we got the job done."

One of the first new businesses to open in the Gulf States since Hurricane Katrina, the new Eatza Pizza restaurant was "standing room only" during its first week of operation.

The Stapps plan to open four additional restaurants in southern Mississippi and Alabama over the next few years. The unit also reflects the chain's newest store design.

"I also think the opening of our restaurant was a positive statement that helped communicate the fact that life can go on after such an extraordinary disaster," Stapp said.

Eatza Pizza is a 20-unit buffet chain based in Scottsdale, Ariz. It serves a wide variety of freshly baked pizzas, fried chicken, fresh pasta, Zatos (a breaded and fried potato), fresh salad bar and a variety of "pizza desserts."

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