Over the pandemic, businesses in the region have changed dramatically and constantly. For some, that change meant the end of their business, while others started new ventures. Of those new ventures, a few became successful in their own right. One of them is Later Pizza.
What started in a retrofitted phone booth has burgeoned into a marketable and authentic pizza spot in Waterloo. Childhood friends Dan Lennox and George Russell had a long-standing dream of opening a pizza place. The pandemic offered them a chance to make that dream a reality.
Lennox and Russell have been business partners since childhood—they grew up selling baseball cards in front of Lennox’s parents’ house. After college, they ran the largest free print snowboarding/skateboarding magazine in North America at the time. Next, they decided to open Bent Taco with well-travelled trophy-touting chef, Nick McGregor. With Lennox and Russell doing the marketing, branding, and design, and McGregor breaking moulds in the kitchen, Bent Taco took off in Collingwood. And when the pandemic arrived, it wasn’t going to stop their progress, but they did have to adapt.
“Before Bent Taco, George and I were trying to do a pizza place,” said Lennox. “We’re like, let’s do this pizza thing we’ve been talking about.”
It was also important for Lennox and Russell to get their staff in Collingwood working again, and this was an opportunity to invite Waterloo locals James Barnett and Taylor Bach into the mix.
“We looped in James and Taylor to be a part of it because it’s like, ‘Look, if you guys want to do restaurants with us, let’s talk about it being pizza,’” Lennox said. “So the five of us started working on that and it evolved into the first iteration—and still happening in Collingwood—[as] this phone booth.”
The retro vibe blew up. Lennox said that aside from people knowing the takeout setup had a Bent Taco connection, success also derived from working with a buddy named Ralph as well as consultation with celebrated pizzaiolo, Noel Brohner.
“[Noel] liked our story…He could feel our excitement about it,” Lennox said.
This relationship allowed Later Pizza to discover their ideal pizza and to get the dough and crust where they needed it to be so they could hit the ground running and get to where a seasoned pizzeria would be in expedited time.
“[The dough and crust] doesn’t really fall into one category at all,” Lennox said. “It could be called, like, phone booth-style pizza.”
Benninger, with his unique creations and inspirations for the Later Pizza and Bent Taco menus, actually surprised Lennox at first during Bent Taco’s nascence.
“I don’t think I was aware of how good of a chef he was until we started working together,” Lennox said. “He’s a good dude, which is great to find in a chef.”
Lennox explains that he, Russell and McGregor are very hands-on in their approach to operations, and they wanted to make sure that Waterloo boys Bach and Barnett were up to speed. This meant it took until November 2021 to open the first actual location of Later Pizza in Waterloo. Now, business is doing well, and this means a consistent and quality menu remains paramount.