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Slim & Husky’s: How Three Roommates Flipped Moving Business Into a Thriving Pizza Empire

What started as a dream inside a garage-turned-“mad pizza science lab” is now a booming artisan eatery serving up slices of heaven.

The Nashville-based Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria made its mark in the city of Atlanta this year with the opening of its fourth location and is expanding expeditiously, with plans to build a ground-up location this fall. It’s been just four years since the hip-hop themed pizzeria was launched in 2015, carving out a path to success for three Tennessee State University roommates looking to satisfy their entrepreneurial hunger.

Slim & Husky's

Slim & Husky’s founders Emanuel Reed, Derrick Moore, and Clinton Gray always had dreams of owning their own business. (Image courtesy of Clinton Gray )

“A lot of people don’t know the full story about how we got started,” partner and co-founder Clinton Gray, 34, told Atlanta Black Star in an interview. “But we’ve been entrepreneurs for almost a decade.”

Recalling their humble beginnings, Gray said he and co-founders Derrick Moore and Emanuel Reed, who are each 34 years old, always knew they wanted to start a business one day. The trio eventually pooled their funds together to launch a low-cost start-up in the form of an eco-friendly moving company in 2010.

The friends grew their business by “boot-strapping,” or pouring back into the business what they earned from customers, before finally selling it in 2017 for a whopping seven figures. It was that sale that made their pizza dreams a reality.

“Moving was just a means to help get our foot in the door to entrepreneurship,” said Gray.

So, why pizza? The restaurateur said that during their travels as movers, the American staple was always the meal of choice.

“Everywhere we [went], we were eating pizza, in every city. And so we started having conversations about a pizza company,” Gray explained, noting that their focus was on creating quality cuisine in neighborhoods rather than in commercial areas.

In May, Slim & Husky’s opened its first Atlanta location on Howell Mill Road in Midtown. Much like its three Nashville restaurants, the eatery’s unique menu pays homage to Black culture and hip-hop greats from Tupac Shakur to Atlanta native CeeLo Green. It also features pizza named for classic R&B artists, like the Rony, Roni, Rone!, a pepperoni lover’s pie that gives a nod the group Tony! Toni! Toné! TLC’s “Red Light Special” served as inspiration for a spicy, and extra saucy pizza by the same name.

The eatery’s tag line P.R.E.A.M. (pizza rules everything around me), taken from the Wu-Tang Clan, pretty much speaks for itself.

“It was very important for us, in a hospitality concept, to pay tribute to those that we grew up on,” Gray told ABS. “It’s a lot of love, it’s a lot of Black culture pushed in our menu because it’s also very important for us to highlight excellence in our culture.”

The co-founder said he sees Slim & Husky’s as more than just a pizza company. For him, it’s way to re-invest the community by bringing people together. The restaurant’s “communal-style” dining reflects this, encouraging customers to mingle with folks who may look or think differently than them.

 “We don’t consider ourselves a pizza company, honestly,” he said. “We just like to make really good pizza that serves as a vehicle to connect with our communities, engage, and be an agent of change where we can.”

Gray, Moore and Reed are currently working on their second Atlanta location on Metropolitan Parkway near the Atlanta University Center, home to the historically Black Spelman College, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College and Clark-Atlanta University. 

The location, set to open in October, will have extended operating hours for college students looking for a late night snack and will feature a takeout window for grab-and-go meals.

“I think we really got a product that people will want to eat,” said Gray, recalling the first time he sunk his teeth into a perfect slice of Slim & Husky’s pizza. “Anywhere.”

Watch more in the video below.

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