It's apparent from the moment you walk into Top This! Pizza Company in Los Gatos that the latest venture from Jerry and Yovette Raymond is a family affair. Two of the Scotts Valley couple's three sons work behind the counter. Menu specials (Brandon's BBQ and Minnie's Margherita) are named after friends, family members, and even a beloved family pet. But it's the easy camaraderie between the long-married duo that makes clear how their lives and careers have come full circle in this shared enterprise.
"I always said we couldn't work together," Yovette said. "But it's going pretty well."
"We definitely have two different work styles," Jerry added. "I'm laid-back, and she's more detailed-oriented. I'm good at designing and setting up businesses while she's good at the operational stuff. So I put it together, and she takes it and runs with it. Of course, I still put my two cents in when I can ..."
"More than that," his wife interrupted with a laugh.
The Raymonds bring plenty of business experience to their new company. Jerry is the founder of Sky High Sports, a fast-growing chain of trampoline parks where energetic visitors of all ages can literally bounce off the walls. Yovette spent her career in management with Century/Cinemark Theatres until devoting herself full time to Top This!
Inspired by restaurants such as Chipotle and Subway, Top This! lets customers build personalized pizzas from the bottom up, starting with three kinds of dough. They proceed down an assembly line adding the sauce, meats, cheeses and veggies of their choice. Then each 10-inch pie is baked in just three minutes in an 800-degree oven affectionately known as Big Bertha. There's also a variety of specials such as Alesso's Veggie Alfredo (named after their grandson) and the Tyler Trio with pepperoni, Italian sausage and meatballs (named after their middle son).
Why pizza? According to Jerry it seemed like a great complement to their existing skills and knowledge. Plus, like most parents, they've seen the initial enthusiasm of "Let's get pizza!" quickly turn to bickering over what to put on it. The kids want pepperoni, dad's a sausage fan, and mom just wants a vegetable, any vegetable, somewhere in the mix.
"We want families to spend less time arguing over pizza toppings and more time enjoying themselves," Yovette explained, sounding just like a mom. That's also why every pizza is $8 regardless of toppings. "At the theaters kids would come up to the concessions with their sticky pennies and dimes and ask, 'How much is this?' 'Do I have enough for that?' We wanted to make it simple for everyone."
Both Jerry and Yovette cite their parents as sources of inspiration. "For me, it all comes down to my father," Jerry said. "More than anyone else, he set me on this path."
"My mother was a single mom who worked really hard to support her kids," Yovette added. "She instilled my work ethic and I'm so grateful to her."
From family, for family, the Raymonds share all the right ingredients for success.
Getting to Know
Jerry and Yovette Raymond
Backgrounds: Jerry was born and raised in Ben Lomond and Felton. He graduated from San Lorenzo Valley High School in 1984 and from San Jose State in 1988 with a degree in advertising and marketing. Yovette grew up in Mountain View and graduated from Mountain View High School in 1983.
How they met: Yovette was a patron at a dance club where Jerry worked as a DJ.
Family: Sons Michael, 27; Tyler, 21; and Brandon, 18. Their grandson Alesso is 9 months old.
Whether they will Work on this side of the hill: 'We'd love to open a pizza place in Santa Cruz. It's all about finding the right spot.'
Favorite Scotts Valley restaurant: 'We love to eat at Café Carlos. The owner is great and works so hard.'
When they're not at work: The couple loves to travel and has been all over the world. This summer they'll take their first trip to Barcelona.
Yovette on Jerry's inherited work ethic: 'Jerry's just like his dad. He's retired but he still has 20 projects to do.'