The Self-Made Man: Bryan Dwyer
This week’s Self Made Man, pizza enthusiast and Pizza Brain owner Brian Dwyer, might come across a bit sillier and less driven than other entrepreneurs in this series. Maybe he is, at least by conventional standards, and that’s okay. Not everyone can be Mark Zuckerberg, and not everyone should be either.
Dwyer’s Pizza Brain restaurant is also a pizza museum, and Dwyer himself has the world’s largest pizza memorabilia collection, as noted by the Guinness Book. Located in Philadelphia, Pizza Brain is as much an art gallery as it is a place to eat, with tons of stuff from Dwyer’s collection on display at all times.
Dwyer didn’t really get into pizza until college, but when that particular bug bit him, it bit hard. Not only did he start eating it all the time, he began collecting pizza-related novelties; toys, games, paintings, and anything else he could find. He became such a fiend for it that when some of his friends collaborated on an art exhibit called “Give Pizza Chance,” he jumped aboard. The reaction to the exhibit was so positive that he kept collecting pizza stuff, amassing a world-record-sized collection by 2011.
Then Dwyer had an idea: why not make a pizza museum? It’s been done for plenty of other foods, but never pizza, which he saw as a huge oversight. “I guess the reason no one’s opened a pizza museum before is that it’s so obvious,” he told Huffington Post back in 2012. “People don’t think about it as the special thing that it is.”
With that in mind, he got some people together and bought three rowhouses in Philly’s Fishtown neighborhood, and raised more than $16,500 through Kickstarter to start renovations. Pizza Brain is open now, and has been getting good, if bewildered, press since then. Dwyer, who was working at Trader Joe’s when he first began this crazy journey, has since made Pizza Brain his full-time job.
Dwyer’s enthusiasm and energy (and maybe obsession) are what drove him to pursue this idea and see it through, and his willingness to reach out to the surrounding community through grassroots marketing and social media outreach is something that other entrepreneurs should consider with their own projects.
Indeed, service is a big part of why Dwyer is giving his life to this project. “I’ve done a show or made something,” he told Philly Mag. “it’s a very self-serving feeling. You create something, and you let it go. And then people either like it or they don’t like it. But this project is so different because it’s a shared experience. It’s meaningful for everybody. All I’m doing is facilitating it.”
I’ll leave you with this video of Bryan Dwyer showing off Pizza Brain to The Chew.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.