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Meet Alex and Jennifer Aton of Junior’s Pizza in East Atlanta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alex and Jennifer Aton.

It has been Alex’s dream to open up his own pizza place for 10 years. He wants to provide Atlanta with a pizza made with high quality ingredients so that toppings are not even necessary but certainly an option. The inspiration for their Sicilian pizza, which is what they’re most proud of, is Prince Street Pizzas in The East Village in New York.

About 8 months ago, they started to make pizza at home, just to test out recipes and give to friends for feedback. That turned into a pop-up opportunity at Highland Row Antiques/The Shave Barbershop. They did two of those last summer but the turn out wasn’t very high. During that time, their friend Matt Karoglou, drummer of Dead Oath, suggested a benefit metal show and that he could set the whole thing up. He worked with Amos Rifkin of A.Rippin to select a date, venue and line up for a show.

During this time, they moved on to pop-up delivery dates. They would announce a date on Instagram, anyone interested could order in advance for pick up or delivery. They have done several of those and each one is bigger than the last.

These pop-up deliveries spread by word of mouth, friends of friends, people with just a few social media connections and total strangers were ordering pizza. Alex made the pizzas while Jennifer mapped out deliveries and made sure everything got delivered according to schedule. Super hectic but a lot of fun, all while maintaining our full-time jobs and a part-time 4 year old.

And that led to Casey Yarbrough of Order of the Owl contacting them to cater their NYE show at 529. A complete stranger ordered 10 pizzas from them for their show and that was amazing and proved that they were doing something right. Although, they have several friends in metal bands in Atlanta, they aren’t involved in the metal scene of Atlanta; yet they have experienced such amazing support from the entire community. The fact that a stranger is willing to order 10 pizzas from them for their show and another local restaurant entrepreneur, Tim Frost, had them cater his personal holiday party and 4 bands are willing to put on a show to help them raise money, is just the greatest compliment.

With all this support from friends in Atlanta and from strangers in general, they feel that they have quickly become a sort of underground, anti-establishment pizza place that Atlanta needs. They are doing what they love, in whatever way they can, regardless of day jobs or insurmountable odds and they are having fun doing what they love.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Some of the struggles have been working out of an apartment, with a standard electric home oven that does not go as high as we would like it to. We have been able to work around that but it slows us down a good bit and does not allow us to make as many pizzas as we want. We also differ from other local pop-ups in the fact that we have to make dough two days in advance and cannot make pizza on demand. These issues have limited our pop-ups, but we feel that people understand this, and because of the limited number of pop-ups we can do, people have become very loyal and eager to catch our next delivery date. Because we want everyone to enjoy our pizza, Instagram has been invaluable in alerting people to our delivery dates as soon as we post them.

Please tell us about Junior’s Pizza.
Junior’s Pizza is currently a pop-up delivery pizza place. We do not have our own store front, we don’t know when we’ll get it; but right now we just want to give Atlanta another pizza option. We currently serve two styles of pizza, the standard round pie and a thicker Sicilian style. In terms of what we offer, we are most proud of our Sicilian style as it is not something found in Atlanta, as well as the specialty pepperonis we use. As a growing company, we are most proud of the grass-roots following we have gained. Complete strangers ordering from us, whether its one pizza or ten, is the biggest compliment to us. The most basic way we are different is that we want to use the highest quality ingredients while creating a simple pizza. This isn’t about using specialty toppings or having intricate recipes, it’s about using the fewest ingredients possible in a way that every element stands on its own. Our dough and sauce are home made and we use pepperonis more commonly used in New York but not found on “New York Style” pizza in Atlanta.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Alex’s favorite childhood memory is that whenever his parents ordered pizza, he donned a pinstripe outfit and took it upon himself to serve the pizza to his family. This started before Alex was even old enough to remember but has been re-told countless times over that last few decades. Alex has always had pizza in his blood and it is just natural that he would want to open his own pizza restaurant.

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