Despite Sluggish Economy, Bosco’s Pizza Company Makes Lots of Dough


WARREN, Mich. — Next time you sink your teeth into a delicious stuffed breadstick, think of the young and charismatic Armenian entrepreneur Mark Artinian. No businessman in Michigan can give you a positive prediction about the current economy and what you hear mostly about business here is gloom and doom. Not, however, at the Bosco Pizza plant, where Artinian is at the helm.

It takes tremendous business acumen, guts and a creative mind to take a simple idea and develop it into a nationwide business. Last year more than 100 million of the company’s pizzas and breadsticks and various other products were sold in 49 states. In fact, Bosco’s pizzas and stuffed breadsticks are served for lunch in many of the nation’s schools, and are also offered in plants, restaurants,  recreation centers, sports arenas and theme parks.

Initially, Bosco’s, which was founded in 1988, only sold pizzas. In 1999, the company started producing its namesake cheese-filled breadsticks escalated their sales exponentially. Since its founding, the company’s sales have grown
nearly 20 percent every year. To provide the necessary production capability, the Artinians built a new plant in 2003.

Now, the company offers Bosco Sticks filled with apples, as well as their original one with cheese and later cheese and pepperoni.

When asked what the secret behind their success is, Mark’s father, Leo Artinian, a former Chrysler executive, jumped in with “Product quality and the treatment of the workforce.” Of course, the state-of-the-art manufacturing plant which is growing with a new department every year also contributes to the success. The fully automated  plant employs a workforce of 130.

A brown-eyed charismatic entrepreneur who can sell you anything with his disarming smile. He is passionate about the quality of the food. For a long time he had hesitated between going into the sports business (his first passion) or the food business. He opted for the food business.

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Upon graduating from Michigan State University, Mark Artinian started to work at a local pizza chain called Papa Romano’s, where he learned the business from the ground up. With help from his parents, he opened a small takeout pizzeria in a Detroit suburb, right across the street from a high school. He did most of the legwork to expand the business and used his capital wisely. After finding out that the students did not like the pizzas sold at the school cafeteria, he decided to make restaurant-quality pizzas, freeze them and deliver to the school so that the cafeteria could heat them and serve them to the students in their optimal  condition.

The news about the pizzas spread fast and other school systems placed orders. Since the store could not handle the growing demand, Artinian sold it and leased a small plant. He bought a run-down industrial freezer, a relic now in the new plant, but still serviceable, as he pointed out during a recent tour. Pizza sales grew rapidly as Bosco expanded beyond schools into other regions of the food service market, including hospitals, plants, offices, stadiums, convenience stores and concession stands.

Artinian is always looking for the next great idea. He said he loves Armenian food and remembers fondly his grandmother’s gata and choreg. When asked about possibly mass-marketing Armenian food, he replied, “I will do it. A future project is to produce mante. I have developed the equipment and I have honed my other equipment to my new products. It is very easy. However, meat products need special care, which I have figured out. I can produce one full tray of mante in 10 seconds.”

(Mante, of course, are tiny squares of dough filled with spiced ground meat, an Armenian ravioli, if you will.)

Today, more than 1,000 convenience stores feature Bosco products. Last year the company’s sales were $46 million.

“He finds a creative idea and runs away with it,” said Leo Artinian proudly. As we visit various departments, Mark Artinian always greets employees in a friendly tone. His father adds: “He takes good care of the workforce and that’s why loyalty is the number-one quality with the employees.”

More than 30 percent of the workers have been with the company for 10 to 20 years.

Father and son are proud of their Armenian background “because as Armenians we have a history of such hardship that we always strive to excel in the careers we embrace, to be able to survive,” said Leo Artinian.

As we leave the factory one thought remained: if Mark Artinian can develop a booming business in an economic depression, we can imagine what miracles he can create when there is an economic turnaround.

There is no limit to Artinian’s imagination. Perhaps his next product will be Grandma’s gata.

— Edmond Y. Azadian

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