Brucci’s Pizza West Beaches closes

Owner Buddy Gray says inflation and cost increases led to the decision.

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After 15 years, Brucci’s Pizza West Beaches closed Dec. 5 at 13500 Beach Blvd.

Brucci’s Pizza owner Buddy Gray said Dec. 5 that continuing price increases in every aspect of the business led to the closure.

“We’ve been here for 15 years and inflation is getting the best of us. We’re just a small mom and pop. Between food costs, utilities, gas, rent, it’s hard for us to sustain,” Gray said,

“Oh yeah, the minimum wage just went up.”

He operated Brucci’s Pizza with his son, Ryan.

The restaurant’s lease, at Beach and Hodges boulevards in the Beach Haven area, was set to expire at the end of the year. It occupied 2,439 square feet of space in Hodges Pointe Plaza, owned by Sleiman Enterprises.

There were once five Brucci’s Pizza restaurants in Northeast Florida. There are all now closed.
There were once five Brucci’s Pizza restaurants in Northeast Florida. There are all now closed.

Gray had nine employees. The minimum wage in Florida is $11 per hour. The tipped wage is $7.98 per hour. 

The Florida minimum hourly wage is increasing $1 every October by state statute until it reaches $15 for nontipped employees.

Gray said his employees were making more than minimum wage, with line cooks and dishwashers earning a minimum $11 per hour and tipped employees $7.98. 

“Before we decided to close, I put pen to paper and looked at what we would have to charge just to pay the bills, break even, not even earn any money,” Gray said.

At one time there were five Brucci’s Pizza restaurants. The first was started in Ponte Vedra Beach by Bruce Jackson, Gray said. Gray and his son opened their location in 2007.

Besides pizza, Brucci’s Pizza West Beaches was known for calzones, paninis, sub sandwiches and Italian-American entrees.

It also had a long-running open mic night hosted by Mike Shackelford. He was invited back for a final show Dec. 3, according to a post on its Facebook page.

“I never intended to open it to close it. I’m a competitive person and it hurts to close. But it makes sense right now,” Gray said.

Ryan Gray’s wife has been offered a job in Orlando, and he and his family will move there in January. 

Buddy Gray, 66, said he would “lay low” for a while until making a job decision.