MILAN, Mich. -- Since February, a Little Caesars pizza franchisee has sold pizza out of a long semi-trailer just 500 feet down the road from is a Marco's Pizza franchise. And according to the The Saline Reporter, Marco's franchisee Guy Ciavattone isn't happy about it.
Ciavattone lodged a formal complaint with the Milan City Council on July 14, claiming he's within the business zoning laws while the Little Caesars trailer isn't.
"When I put up my business," Ciavattone said, "I had to go through zoning, get all my permits and get everything approved."
By obtaining a peddler's permit for $100, Ciavattone said, Little Caesars avoided those steps.
"If I would have known that for $100 I could have started my business, I would have done it," he told the council.
But it's not the competition that irks Ciavattone. Instead, he's more concerned that Little Caesars isn't giving back to the Milan community in the same way that Ciavattone said he has -- by donating time and money to Milan for the last 13 years.
Pat Shannon, a Hungry Howie's operator, echoed Ciavattone's sentiment.
"For the most part, it doesn't affect our business at all, but on the same point, I pay a lot of taxes a year to run my business," Shannon said. "We support the community in every way, and to see the community let these people come in and take money out, it kind of upsets me."
Dave Scrivano, vice president of administration for Little Caesars, said the company pays money in fees and taxes and is active in every community in which it does business.
"As our initial entry into Milan, we did a pizza day fund-raiser for the Benson family," he said, referring to a local family that lost three children in a fire. "It is very important to us that we immediately get into the community. We will continue to do that."
But after they heard Ciavattone's complaint at a work session held Monday before the city council meeting, the city council was surprised at how small an amount Little Caesar's was paying.
"The points he's made highlight that we have some holes in the system," Councilwoman Kimberly Dunbar said.
City Administrator Mike Czymbor said he would refer the matter to City Attorney John Martin. But closing the holes may be difficult. It's hard to state which businesses would be allowed to obtain a peddler's permit, and for what price, he said.
"It's one thing to have a peddler's license to sell food in the park," Councilwoman Cynthia Swope said. "It's another to have a semi parked in a lot."
Little Caesars had a restaurant in Milan, but it closed in 1994. Ciavattone and Shannon would like to see them return.
"They want to put a store here, come back and put a store here," Shannon said. "Be a competitor and pay your taxes like everyone else."
But, as long as there is a demand, Little Caesars will continue to serve the Milan area through the mobile kitchen.
"We view it as the community desires Little Caesar's and wants a higher quality pizza in their town," Scrivano said. "This is a way to do that. As long as the community feels that we should be there on a weekly basis, we'll be there."