PLYMOUTH — When Al Carvelli recently dismantled the Upper Crust sign outside his pizza shop here, the former franchisee felt a sense of relief.
Carvelli bought the store in 2010 with plans to have fun and make money at the popular gourmet pizza chain that had rapidly expanded across the region. But tough economic times and bad publicity from accusations that Upper Crust executives exploited workers at other stores had the opposite effect.
So after years of painful sales declines, Carvelli has parted ways with Upper Crust, which filed for bankruptcy protection in October following mounting financial problems, labor troubles, and disputes among its partners. He is joined by Mark Tramontana, another former Upper Crust franchisee who shut down his Portsmouth restaurant earlier this year and recently terminated his relationship with the company for the Newburyport location. The sole remaining franchisee in West Roxbury would not confirm whether it planned to continue working with Upper Crust.
“This gives me freedom to bring in more business without being tied to Upper Crust,” said Carvelli, 70, during an interview at his Plymouth restaurant, which he is rebranding as “Top Crust” and expanding the menu to include wraps, subs, and desserts.
“I’m just trying to make it work,” said Carvelli, who also sold a former Upper Crust location in Hingham that he bought at auction after realizing he needed to focus on a turnaround at the Plymouth shop.
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