• Pizza Magia launches growth plan in 'underserved' SE U.S.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Two franchisees of Louisville, Ky.-based Pizza Magia International are opening in Birmingham the third of what they expect will be 25 locations in the southeastern U.S.

According to the Birmingham Business Journal, area Krystal franchisee Dr. Harold Hirsch and Birmingham entrepreneur Bob Suellentrop will open the store on Nov. 19. The pair plans to open about two dozen more Pizza Magias in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia over the next five years.

Hirsch's and Suellentrop's company, PMSE LLC (short for Pizza Magia Southeast), opened a store in Tuscaloosa in September, one in Auburn in October and has a store under construction north of Tuscaloosa in Northport.

"The business is very competitive, but there's also great demand," Suellentrop said. "There's room for growth."

Suellentrop believes the southeastern U.S. is an underserved market, and that the market will welcome Pizza Magia's product line -- pizzas, hot stromboli sandwiches and a dessert pizza called Sweetie Pie. "Everyone wants to try a new product, as long as it's good and the service is good."

Pizza Magia has approximately 35 stores in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana and has agreements to develop 105 more in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee. According to the company, franchisees spend $125,000 to $150,000 to start each new store.

Pizza Magia founder and president Dan Holland also is the former president of 2,900-store Papa John's International Inc., which he helped take public in 1993. Holland left the president's post in 1995 and briefly was a Papa John's franchisee in North Carolina.

Several Pizza Magia executives, including Holland, are former Papa John's employees and are named in a lawsuit filed by Papa John's in September 2000. The suit alleges Pizza Magia and its commissary company, PM Food Service LLC, violated federal trademark laws by copying Papa John's operational systems and its pizza products illegally. A trial date is set for next June.

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