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A slice of pizza and history down the toilet

Jul 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest News, News

BEAN AND GONE: The name Gentlemen's Beans is a sly nod to the toilet's seedy past

SLICES of New York style pizza are attracting hundreds of people to a former gentlemen’s toilets with a seedy past on Courtenay Place.

Tommy Millions pizza and Gentlemen’s Beans coffee have not ignored the history of the century-old toilets, which closed in 1999.

“We kind of play it up,” says Tommy Kirton, one of the business partners.

“Gentlemen’s Beans is the coffee, it’s sort of a sly nod to the history without trying to get into any sordid details.”

Mr Kirton did volunteer pizza training in New York and San Francisco to prepare for this new venture.

Business kicked off last Tuesday with an opening night that drew hundreds of friends, family and those who helped over two years of planning.

PIZZA CHIEF: Business owner Tommy Kirton shows off his new pizza joint

“It has met our expectations and exceeded them, just through the response we have had from people, it’s all positive,” says Mr Kirton.

Tommy Millions, selling the giant pizza slices, has proven to be a great success in its first week, with people trickling in for a slice until after 4am over the weekend.

The Wellington City Council had been looking for something to fill the spot since the toilets were shut down over a decade ago.

“We received a range of proposals,” says Grahame Armstrong, senior media adviser for the council.

“However, we were impressed by the simplicity and quality of the proposed building development, along with the proposed business which we felt was sustainable and would complement the park surrounds.”

The council worked closely with the owners, to find something that suited the building.

“It’s a really high profile, heritage rich building so there were a lot of hurdles to jump through,” says Mr Kirton.

“We compromised to and fro and in the end came to a meeting of the minds.”

The man behind the giant slice

A fast food joint selling giant pizza slices is a dream finally come true for the man behind Tommy Millions.

Tommy Kirton (27) earned the last name Millions during his teenage years in Hawkes Bay, where he was always looking to make a quick buck.

“All throughout High School and University I was always up to some kind of entrepreneurial dubious scheme whether it was selling notes at law school or selling apricots in High School,” he says.

He saw the New York style pizza slice as another potential scheme, while he spent a year in America and Canada after graduating from law school.

SLICING UP: Mr Kirton slices up a mushroom, gorgonzola and spinach pizza

 

“Seeing pizza by the slice, seeing big pizzas it was just so foreign but it made so much sense,” says Mr Kirton.

“Pizza on the run, an alternative to burgers and kebabs and there was just nothing like it in NZ and all the NZers I was with over there were digging it, slices every night and it just seemed like a good idea”.

When he returned to New Zealand to start a graduate position at a law firm, he lasted three weeks before realising it was not for him.

He moved back to Napier and started looking for a mobile pizza oven.

“I found one on Trade Me, drove up to Auckland and bought it the next day, then moved to Wellington the next week.”

He started catering company NYPD, selling slices at Farmers markets, a baby step towards getting an actual joint.

When he started making pizza at Scopa in Wellington, the dream of that actual joint became a reality.

“Me and the Scopa boys always said we’d do something if the opportunity came up,” he says.

They came across this spot and found out the council was looking for tenders, so they put in their application.

“It evolved into something probably bigger and more expensive than what we envisaged but it’s just such a perfect location,” says Mr Kirton, who did volunteer pizza training in America.

“They take it pretty serious over there,” he says

“There’s a lot of people lining up to work for free in pizzerias.”

The training paid off, as his catering company NYPD continues to evolve and Tommy Millions is proving to be popular in its first week.

“People come up with a good attitude, not a sceptical attitude,” he says.

“That’s what we always wanted, a place people feel comfortable, where they can have a good time and have something good to eat for a reasonable price.”

THE CLASSIC: Mr Kirton says the pepperoni pizza is still a bestseller

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