99¢ pizza shops proliferate in NYC

By Michael Stoler | August 24, 2010 04:15PM

First it was Starbucks, followed by the rapid growth of cupcake shops. Now pizzerias, a New York institution for more than 100 years, are multiplying.

Rising rents coupled with the increased cost of flour, cheese and tomato sauce make it a strange phenomenon to see the unbelievable growth of the 99¢ pizza shop.

Fifty years ago, 1960 to be precise, it cost 15 cents to take the bus or subway or purchase a slice of pizza.

According to the inflation calculator, if you spent 15 cents in 1960, the same item would cost you $1.10 today.

Unfortunately, the cost of riding the subway has risen to $2.25 and the average price for a slice of regular pizza in Manhattan is approximately $2.85 (the price charged at three locations of Ray Bari Pizza).

The costs and charges for pizza have gone through the roof since the inception of Gennaro Lombardi’s Lombardi’s at 53 Spring Street in 1897, which marked the country’s first pizzeria. It sold pizza pies for the price of a nickel.

Pizza is a big business in New York City with an estimated 735 stores in the five boroughs, according to About.com and a Columbia University research report issued in 2008. This number might reach 800 with the rapid rise in the growth of pizza for less than a buck.

The blog Slice.com reports that in Manhattan, there are at least 15 99¢ cent slice pizza stores. Many of these small shops (a little larger than a shoe shine or shoemaker shop) are located in Midtown, especially near Grand Central Terminal and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

The shops include 99 Cents Fresh Pizza, 99 Cent Fresh Hot Pizza and 2 Bros. Pizza. Even the national pizza chain Papa John’s location at 213 West 28th Street, between Seventh and Eighth avenues, near the campus of the Fashion Institute of Technology is now offering a slice at this low, low price.

In Midtown, the lines are around the corner at 99¢ Fresh Pizza, particularly the location at 151 East 43rd Street, off of Third Avenue. The competition is heating up with the recent openings of 99 Cent Pizza at the corner of 44th Street and Third Avenue as well as a 99 Cent Fresh Hot Pizza at 459 Lexington Avenue between 45th and 46th streets.

Maffei’s Restaurant located at 688 Sixth Avenue at 22nd Street charges $2 for its Grandma slice, but the pizza shop is now offering gourmet cheese pizza for only $1 from its pizza truck.

With pizza for less than a buck (sales tax extra) coupled with the vacancy of small retail locations in Manhattan, expect to see the growth of the 99¢ pizza shops for the foreseeable future.

Michael Stoler is a columnist for The Real Deal and host of real estate programs “The Stoler Report” and “Building New York” on CUNY TV and on WEGTV in East Hampton. His radio show, “The Michael Stoler Real Estate Report,” airs on 1010 WINS on Saturdays and Sundays. Stoler is a director at Madison Realty Capital as well as an adjunct professor at NYU Real Estate Institute, and a former contributing editor and columnist for the New York Sun.