"I chose Holmes because it was convenient and very affordable," Ryan said. "While I was going there, I worked with Michael Parker and the late Larry Emmett to open Pizza Shack on North State Street (in downtown Jackson). I was thankful that my class schedule at Holmes was so flexible; that was really helpful since we were starting the business at the same time.
"Pizza Shack on State Street was really crazy; I was working there every night and going to school during the day. It did work out that the majority of our business was at night."
While at Holmes, Ryan completed a broad spectrum of courses, including accounting and computer classes, which have aided him in running his own business.
"A good community college is a good base for a good education," Ryan said. "It teaches you that you've got to show up, you need to be on time, get your work done and be respectful to those you work with. It also teaches you how to network and collaborate with others to get things done. That's how it is in the real world; very few jobs are a one-man show and most of us in the workforce are in positions where it has to be team-oriented."
After opening the first Pizza Shack at only 21 years old, Ryan kept the momentum going. He took additional accounting classes at Mississippi State University and moved the restaurant from North State Street to a new location off Old Canton Road in Jackson. Three and a half years later Pizza Shack relocated again, to East Fortification Street.
As the popularity of the Pizza Shack continued to grow, Ryan decided to sell the Jackson location and open a new Pizza Shack in his hometown of Madison. By the time he opened the doors to that location in June of 2015, the restaurant had been recognized with multiple awards from USA Today, Jackson Free Press and Mississippi Magazine, to name a few. Ready to embark on another adventure with the business, Ryan set his sights on Olde Towne Clinton.
"My former partner and I looked at the Olde Towne Clinton area for years, but we were nervous about how much traffic we would get," Ryan said. "Once Tim Parkman, Raymond Jackson and Preston Grace opened 303 Jefferson and brought business to that area of Clinton, where there previously hadn't been much traffic, I felt like it was time for me to join them."
Ryan's newest establishment, The Bank by Pizza Shack, still offers the same "Mississippi-style" pizza, as he refers to it, complete with fresh ingredients, homemade crust and piles of toppings. What sets the restaurant apart from other locations is the historically-preserved building the restaurant and bar is located in.
"It's been a fun project for me," Ryan said. "This building has been around since the early 1900s, when it was actually the bank in Clinton. We wanted to do a mesh of a modern pizzeria in a building that's over 100 years old and expose some of the bones of this old place. We kept the original floors and the original ceilings in this place and have made it a bank-themed restaurant with old coins visible beneath the countertops.
"I thought it would be fun to call it the bank because, well for one, we didn't want to throw an old Pizza Shack sign over the original brick out front that said 'The Bank.' Also, I thought it was kind of funny that you could say 'hey honey, I'm stopping by The Bank on my way home from work' and then just drop in for a drink."
Today, Ryan splits his time between his two locations, working at the Madison Pizza Shack in the mornings and The Bank in Clinton in the evenings. He handles everything from managing to training bookkeepers, handling catering invoices to hanging TVs in the bar area.
"The reason that I really wanted to get into this business was because I love being able to do a little bit of everything," Ryan said. "I get to meet interesting people and I've loved learning along the way...I've loved doing everything from making the pizzas to chatting with customers and everything in between."
Ryan and his wife, Mary Grace, reside in Madison with their dogs.
To learn more about Pizza Shack, tap http://www.pizzashackpizza.com.