Pizza with a purpose

Pizza with a purpose

Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau doesn’t just make pizza. Through his Chicagobased business, Dimo’s Pizza, he also cultivates talented employees. He opens his doors to local schools. He helps foster enthusiasm and excitement within his community.

That’s because, to Syrkin-Nikolau, business isn’t just about making money. He believes it’s about what he calls “purposeful profit.”

“Ultimately, profit is what matters in terms of a business’ success,” he said. “But that’s not the way you should judge success. I also judge success by doing right by the people who work here and our neighborhood – our goal is to create success for the employees and the community we’re involved in.”

That’s why he offers full health benefits to his salaried employees – a rarity among owners in the restaurant industry. He also provides a 401(k) with an employer match, as well as paid time off.

Syrkin-Nikolau has found that investing in good people makes the difference in an industry where the customer experience matters. When he started the business in 2008, Syrkin-Nikolau only had a handful of employees. As time went on and business grew, he brought on more and more team members, utilizing his best workers’ strengths by putting them in positions where they could be successful.

And Syrkin-Nikolau has his eyes set on expanding his Dimo’s Pizza’s horizons. This spring, he opened the doors to a second location in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Syrkin-Nikolau was partially drawn to the neighborhood because of the story of the Wicker Brothers, for whom the neighborhood was named.

“Their idea was to make a place where people of all economic backgrounds can live and succeed,” Syrkin-Nikolau said. “That’s a goal I can get behind.”

The Wicker brothers’ vision for Wicker Park is different from how many people view Chicago’s reputation – as a city tainted with corruption. Syrkin-Nikolau said that some of the legislation set up to protect the city from corruption actually hinders people like himself, who want to grow business.

“You end up running into a number of challenges because of how things were in the past and how things were undertaken to fight corruption,” he said. “While it’s great to not have corruption, it’s better to have policies that foster growth.”

“It would be nice to see Illinois be a place Abraham Lincoln would be proud of,” he said. “Seeing people flee the state is not something he would have been super excited about. The obvious goal is to create a business and recreational environment that is inviting, that people want to participate in – so that people feel they can make a life for themselves here.”

Fortunately for Chicago pizza lovers, this city is already a place where Syrkin-Nikolau is making a life for himself – and his business.

“One of the most exciting things about Chicago is that a lot of people move here because they’re excited about living in a big city,” he said. “It’s really a siphon for the Midwest. You get people from all Big Ten schools, people from other major metro areas, and they’re all excited to be here because the city has potential.

“… For us, business is always better when the Cubs are in season. You get a lot of people coming in from out of town, the suburbs. It’s exciting to see them experience the product for the first time. A lot of people can’t believe their eyes. You know you’ve got this new group of people who are excited to experience all things Chicago.”

And customers who stop by Dimo’s know the experience is anything but typical — Syrkin-Nikolau and his staff create menu options ranging from mac-and-cheese pizza to Reuben pizza to chicken-and-waffles pizza.

“The most exciting thing about being in business is that it’s a creation process,” he said. “And if you create something successful, people will be able to see that and be a part – and if you do it really well, the by-product is profit. And with that, if you choose, you can give back any number of ways.”

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