Concealed behind the delicious Italian food at Pizza Paul's, there lies a classic American success story: Paul Miller may be the pizzeria's ubiquitous owner and namesake, but it took years of dedication before he acquired his own brand.
Miller, a native of Pavilion, N.Y., got his start in the pizza business at the ripe young age of 15 tossing dough at Jim and Don's Pizzeria in Avon. Although he found employment at a pizza shop, Miller admits that the food wasn't what motivated him. "I needed a job," he said.
Still, it was love at first bite, as Miller climbed the ranks at various pizzerias until eventually establishing the first Pizza Paul's on Geneseo's Main Street in 1993.
"I took a couple other jobs along the way for a week or two here, a week or two there, but basically I've been in [the pizza business] for 40 years," said Miller.
In the years before 1993, Miller worked his way up to a partner of Mr. T's Pizza Land on Main Street in Geneseo. Following the death of the Pizza Land senior owner, Miller broke away from the corporation to run his own eatery.
Miller described it as an amicable business decision. "[The senior member and I] had an agreement that when it was time for him to go in life, it was time for me to break off and go on my own." In the end, said Miller, "It was better for me to go on my own than to try to battle with the family to get my thoughts or my decisions passed through the corporation."
Because Miller took over an existing pizzeria, there was scant turnover when he started out. In fact, Pizza Paul's proved to be quite successful; within a year the shop expanded, adding a location in Lakeville along Route 20A. "It was a smooth transition because all the employees were the same, I was the same," said Miller. "The only change was that the sign out front changed to my name."
The name was a product of the imaginations of Paul's three daughters, Teresa, Stephanie and Janice, as well as his wife and high-school sweetheart, Cathie. Seeing as Miller's family played a role in the store's first moments, it should come as no surprise that Pizza Paul's has developed into something of a family business.
"Our oldest grandson is 13, next year he's going to be 14 and our youngest daughter is planning on him working in the shop," said Cathie. All of the daughters have worked at the restaurants at some point in their lives, and their daughter Teresa Chichester currently operates the Geneseo store with her husband Craig. Teresa is also the innovator behind popular creations such as the Sub-Zone, Cyclone, and Paul's cheese balls.
Working in the area for so long, Miller has risen to prominence in the community. Students from years past often come in and recognize him, and he has been named an honorary member of Sigma Tau Psi, Ago, Phigs and Phi Lamb.
All his years in the business have given Miller time to perfect his recipes. The dough and sauce are homemade at Pizza Paul's and the old Pizza Land recipes have been changed to please Paul's palate.
Miller's taste carries some considerable clout. As he puts it, "If I don't eat it, it's not on the menu."