PUBLISHED: 2:19 PM on Wednesday, March 9, 2005
For Wade Bryson, it's about being prepared for opportunity

Photo by Christina Holmgren
  Wade and Christine Bryson with youngest daughter Mary Ellen outside their Valley Subway restaurant.
The old adage "attitude is everything" is never as true as when your faced with trouble.

So when the building where one of his two Subway restaurants was located burned down last summer, Wade Bryson had a choice, he said:

"I guess I could have become all depressed. But I am always prepared for opportunity. So I thought 'what's the best possible scenario that can come out of this?'"

The Skinner building in downtown Juneau burned down, with a total loss for the businesses in it, ten days before Bryson's youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, was born. The evening after the fire, Bryson gathered all the Subway employees in the Valley restaurant for a meeting.

"At the end of the evening, everybody had a job. Some people took a week off, I got to take some time and be with my wife and our new baby. It was a major hassle. I learned a lot. But it all worked out."

Bryson's attitude is part of the explanation to his success in the notoriously difficult restaurant business. But it's not the only one. A lot of credit, he said, goes to his wife and business partner Christine.

"She's the real secret behind my success," he said.

"No," countered Christine, who is in charge of accounting and administration, "it's just two puzzle pieces that fit very well together."

Bryson also credits his many years of work experience, and the business owners he has worked for. Not only the successful ones -Ehe said he has also learned a lot from failed businesses about how not to manage a business.

Back in October of 2001, after a summer as an employee in a tourism industry that had "ended the season slowly" after September 11, Bryson found himself unemployed. "For about twelve hours. Eric Forst, who owned the Subway franchises in Juneau, picked me up right away."

Bryson started as manager of the Valley store, and three years later, took over both the stores. Since he took over ownership, Bryson says the Valley location is now the third largest Subway out of 50 in the state."I treat my employees well. I believe I offer what is probably the highest entry-level pay in Juneau," Bryson said. "I've been an employee recently enough that I remember what it's like."

And just as his family -Ewife Christine and children Elizabeth, Elena, Hayden and Mary Ellen -Eare part of Bryson's business, his employees, he says, are "like part of my family."

"We have monthly meetings. Regular parties. We have a big Christmas party. All the employees were invited to my house for Thanksgiving." All of those things have worked together, Bryson says, to make up a successful and expanding business.

Opening "Freakin' Pizza" in the Nugget Mall was just a logical next step for this entrepreneur, who has a "background in pizza":

"Subs and pizza have the same basic ingredients -Ethey're just cooked in a different order," he said.

The name "Freakin' Pizza" was the result of a mountainbike ride with a high school student who was complaining his mom wouldn't let him say "freakin'". "Freakin' Pizza" sounded good in Bryson's ears, and when the high schooler's mom burst out laughing at the suggestion, the name "just kind of stuck," Bryson said.

That the name bugs some people is just a plus, he said - that just shows he succeeded in what he was trying to do; hit a nerve in the current culture.

While Freakin' Pizza is increasing their share of the Juneau pizza market and recently expanded from the "pizza-by-the-slice" concept on location in the mall to including a delivery service, Bryson isn't resting: His next project is opening a second Subway again -Ethis one located at the corner of Second and Seward in downtown Juneau.

"They're redoing the sidewalks, and I think when it's done, it's going to be a beautiful new walkway all the way from our old location up to the Capitol," Bryson said.

The restaurant is scheduled to open some time in the early summer.

And we haven't seen the end of Freakin' Pizza either, he says.

"Everybody thought it was a franchise," he said of this his first business created from the ground up.

And Bryson's goal is making it one.

"But I'm also remembering that Starbuck's existed for 14 years before opening their second one, so I'm patient."