With new ads, Papa Gino’s promotes New England’s ‘official’ pizza

Papa Gino’s, which just exited bankruptcy, is launching its first major campaign in five years.
Papa Gino’s, which just exited bankruptcy, is launching its first major campaign in five years.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/File
Deena McKinley
Deena McKinley Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

Deena McKinley isn’t from New England. But that’s all the more reason for the new chief marketing officer of Papa Gino’s to hire a local ad agency when it came time to launch the pizzeria chain’s first major campaign in five years.

“There is such a unique character to this region of the country,” McKinley says.

“It’s, ‘We’ve got your back, we’re in it together.’ It’s this beautiful camaraderie. . . . It was extremely important to us that the agencies we worked with knew that, understood that character.”

McKinley ended up hiring some faces that were familiar to the folks at Papa Gino’s HQ in Dedham: Marty Donohue, Tim Foley, and their team at the Boston ad firm Full Contact were tapped to be the chain’s lead creative agency. Full Contact was behind the last big Papa Gino’s campaign, the 2014 one involving former Patriots star Tedy Bruschi, and has remained on board with the affiliated D’Angelo chain.

Radio ads started airing several weeks ago, followed by TV ads.


The recurring theme: the “official pizza” of all of life’s moments in New England.

The marketing is particularly crucial because Papa Gino’s just endured a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and dozens of store closures, leading some New Englanders to fear the worst about the brand.

Instead, the new owner, Wynnchurch Capital, brought in some new leaders — including McKinley, CEO Bill Van Epps, and president Tom Sterrett — and is investing significant money in advertising.

The company is also planning to launch radio spots to promote D’Angelo sandwich shops later this week.

“They’ve been pretty neglected for a lot of years,” McKinley says of the Papa Gino’s and D’Angelo chains. “They haven’t been marketed at all. . . . They were looking to really save for the bottom line in the previous regime. Marketing is always the first thing to go in those situations.”


Because of the highly publicized bankruptcy, McKinley says, “we knew we couldn’t stay in the dark.”

McKinley previously worked with Van Epps when she was a regional marketing director for the Papa John’s pizzeria chain, and Van Epps was a top executive there. Van Epps later recruited her to Mobivity, a firm that helps retailers connect with their customers. (Van Epps was a board member.) That entailed a move to Arizona, Mobivity’s home state. McKinley has been there for four years.

Van Epps gave her another call last fall: Do you want to be part of turning this New England pizzeria chain around? McKinley said yes, again. She plans to relocate to the Boston area this summer, after her kids’ school year ends in Arizona.

Donohue is optimistic about the new ownership.

“Some new owners come in and want to spend the least amount of money,” says Donohue, co-owner and creative director at Full Contact. “I feel like these [owners] are the opposite. They see something of great value that has been kind of idling for the last eight to 10 years.” — JON CHESTO

Celebrating 40 years of fashion

It’s been 40 years since Sandy Gradman, her twin sister, Ilene Epstein, and their friend Marcie Brawer opened The Studio in Brookline, and while the fashions in the upscale women’s boutique may have changed over the last four decades, the trio are still side-by-side.

“When we started this, we never thought we’d be here 40 years later,” Gradman said this week, as she and her co-owners prepped for the store’s birthday celebration on Wednesday, an evening of popcorn and prosecco at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.


The event will gather the store’s longtime clientele to fete fashion and friendship. Its lineup includes excerpts from the play “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” written by Nora and Delia Ephron, and adapted from the book by Ilene Beckerman, who will be on hand for the night’s performance. Pat O’Brien and former Globe columnist Ellen Goodman will share stories from their book “I Know Just What You Mean.” And Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri, who briefly worked at The Studio, contributed an essay for the evening. (It will be read by Epstein’s husband, Leslie Epstein, a former professor of Lahiri’s at Boston University.)

The women started selling clothing out of Brawer’s home and art studio in 1979 (hence the name). But after Brawer’s husband became tired of women undressing in their apartment, they found a tiny storefront in Brookline. They’ve increased their square footage, but the women credit their longtime success to their decision to focus on that storefront, rather than expand outside of their neighborhood.

“We were all bringing up our children and leading busy lives, and we didn’t want to open it up to hiring help and all the problems when you expand too quickly,” Gradman said. “It was a wise decision, in retrospect.”

“It was a decision that 90 percent of male retailers wouldn’t have made,” Brawer quipped.


Now, with seven children and 16 grandchildren among them (including Epstein’s famous son, Theo Epstein), they still have no plans to slow down.

They promise the night will be full of laughs, and maybe even some tears.

“There’s an emotional content of this: self-image, and what makes us happy and sad, and what we wore throughout it all,” Epstein said. “It couldn’t have happened if The Studio didn’t become what it is.” — JANELLE NANOS

A 100th anniversary party, by design

Century-old buildings are a dime a dozen in a city like Boston. But the Innovation and Design Building has an unusual history — one that was celebrated Wednesday with a giant 100th anniversary party sponsored by the landlord, Jamestown. Tenants helped out, too. America’s Test Kitchen provided the birthday cake, Autodesk brought robots, and Reebok gave away 100 pairs of IDB-themed shoes.

The eight-story building was built for the Army, to help transport goods overseas during World War I. The complex looms over the low-slung buildings across the city’s marine industrial park, now known as the Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park. The complex was known until recently as the Boston Design Center (front portion) and the Bronstein Center (middle portion) until Jamestown rebranded the entire structure. (A smaller rear section is controlled by another landlord.)

Jamestown’s president, Michael Phillips, says the company has tried to build a sense of community around the themes of innovation and design since taking control of the property in 2013. The rebranding helped attract some high-profile tenants: ATK moved there from Brookline, Autodesk relocated its Waltham operations there, and Reebok made tracks from Canton. Today, only about 5 percent of the 1.4-million-square-foot complex is vacant, he says. It is home to more than 200 businesses and 3,400-plus workers.


“Buildings are great, but it’s the people who inhabit them that make them fantastic,” Phillips says. “This is a real example of how the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. It’s a real dynamic ecosystem.” — JON CHESTO

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