Forbes recognizes Nick’s Pizza & Pub in Crystal Lake

By BRETT ROWLAND browland @shawmedia.com Published: Sunday, June 18, 2017 12:06 a.m. CDT • Updated: Sunday, June 18, 2017 12:07 a.m. CDT
Sarah Nader – snader@shawmedia.com Nick Sarillo, owner of Nick's Pizza & Pub, poses for a portrait May 12 outside his Crystal Lake restaurant. Forbes recently named the business a Small Giant. — Sarah Nader

CRYSTAL LAKE – Nick Sarillo usually doesn’t pay much attention to “best of” lists, but when his namesake business, Nick’s Pizza & Pub, was named among Forbes’ Best Small Companies, he took notice.

“This list – this is my kind of success,” he said of the distinction. “For me, success is having a meaningful place to work.”

Forbes’ second annual list of Small Giants – described as “25 companies that value greatness over growth” – included two other Illinois businesses – Basecamp in Chicago and Fusion OEM in Burr Ridge.

“They contribute to their communities. They have been acknowledged as outstanding by others in their field. And they do things any business can learn from,” author Bo Burlingham wrote about the winners.

That last part is important for Sarillo. Running a business well is a point of pride for him. He even wrote a book about the “trust-and-track” culture – as opposed to command-and-control – at his business.

“We want to help other businesses,” Sarillo said. “We invite them to come in and see what we’re doing.”

He has come a long way from 2011, when the business was weeks away from bankruptcy.

Forbes described the situation this way: “With all other options exhausted, he wrote an email to customers explaining the situation, taking full blame for it, and asking for help. The customers rallied and literally saved the company. Sales almost doubled for the next two months. Some even called the bank, urging it to help Sarillo find a solution.

The company survived; Sarillo’s debt was restructured, and he learned a hard, but crucial, lesson about the balance sheet.”

Nick’s Pizza & Pub has locations in Crystal Lake and Elgin. It’s about to add a third restaurant in Lincoln Square in Chicago. Sarillo said he recently signed a lease on the space and hopes to open later this year.