Best Marketing Scheme

"Pizza Pan: Original Home of the Free Pizza"

By the time his epiphany came, Fred Peters was a seasoned vet of the pie game. Already the owner of eight Pizza Pan shops scattered through Cleveland's West Side, Peters had spent 18 years erecting a modest empire from what was once a single humble location at Lorain and West 117th. Then in April 2002, he was rousted from his sleep by visions of a three-for-the-price-of-one pizza deal. Devised to bolster slack business in the months that followed September 11, Peters' pizza giveaway was an immediate sensation, and he promptly trademarked his slogan: "The Original Home of the Free Pizza." Four years later, the 48-year-old graduate of St. Ignatius is rolling in dough: Pizza Pan now numbers more than 100 franchises in seven states between Ohio and California, with others sprouting rapidly nationwide. Pizza mavens and suppliers from around the globe jet into Cleveland to court his affections, but Peters has spurned offers to relocate -- he's building his corporate headquarters in North Ridgeville. "It's been a great ride, and I've met a lot of great people," he says.