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Fat Boys Pizza

Fat Boys Pizza

Talk to Fat Boys owner Dave Dec and it quickly becomes clear: not only are his customers still loving Fat Boys after 20 years, so is he. Even in his days as a student at MSU, Dave said, he knew he wanted to own his own business: “I just didn’t know what.”

Technically he already did own one–the painting business he started to put himself through school. But it wasn’t until he heard a speaker from Domino’s in a class at MSU that a realization hit him: he enjoyed being responsible for a task, working through the process, then finishing it. In that way, painting wasn’t so different from pizzas. But pizza sounded like a lot more fun.

So Dave got his start in pizza–and eventually management–with the Domino’s organization, learning along the way “how I wanted to do it.” At age 25 he got the opportunity to put his theories into practice when he left Domino’s and, with his partners, bought a pizza store in East Lansing. This led to the purchase of a second store in Holt, which ultimately became Fat Boys. He was learning, the business was growing, and he was having fun. Still, he said, “I always thought I’d get a ‘real job’ at some point.”

Now it’s been 20 years, and it’s been Dave’s solo operation since 1996. “At first,” he said, “you think, ‘If I make it a year, I’ll be okay.’ Then you think, ‘If I make it five years...’. One day I realized, ‘I guess this is what I’m really doing now.’”

Not that he has gotten here without a lot of hard work. Dave admitted to being a bit of a perfectionist, and said he’s always tackling a “project,” whether it be planning for new equipment or coming up with marketing strategies. It’s clear he isn’t a guy who’s content to rest on his laurels. “It brings me a tremendous amount of joy when the phone is ringing off the hook,” he said. “I never, ever take it for granted.”

That’s why you might run into him on a sunny summer day, buzzing around a Holt neighborhood on the Fatmobile, a tricked-out golf cart. He might do an impromptu dough-spinning demo, hand out gift certificates or t-shirts, or just sit and shoot the breeze with people for a couple of hours. It’s the “meeting people” part that he loves. “I never know what I’m going to do when I go out–I just wing it.”

He’s found that somehow, without his planning it, Fat Boys has become part something of a touchstone for Holt people. Customers who came in with their families as kids now come in with kids of their own. People who’ve moved away are happy to come back for a visit and find out Fat Boys is still there.

And that’s the part that Dave loves most about what he does: the relationships.

“It really is an ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ kind of thing,” he said. “The dreams you were chasing when you went into business aren’t what end up being the rewards. But the rewards are even better than what your dreams were.” That’s why, Dave said, he and his wife Susan are firmly planted in Holt. “We’ve been involved in this community forever, and we always will be.”

Fat Boys is at 2040 N. Aurelius in the Holt Plaza, 699-2400,

Last updated: January-18-2011

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