COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jane Grote Abell and Tom Krouse are the president and CEO of Donatos — the family- owned pizza company started by Abell’s father back in 1963 on the south side of Columbus.
- They’ve been married for five years and together they run what has become a national operation
- The first Donatos was built by Abell’s father Jim on Thurman Ave.
- Abell says the restaurant’s popularity came from the love of community
But they don’t just work together. They’re actually married.
“I did grow up in a business where my mom and dad worked together and as a little girl I remember saying I am never doing that, and then ended up meeting my best friend at work and, you know, when you work with people you spend a lot of time with them, so you get to know who they really are, and so it’s been, I would say, from I would never do that, to this is really awesome and it works really well…from my perspective,” said Abell.
“I think it’s terrible…no I’m just kidding. “You know, you think about when you might wake up and you’re stressed about something from work and you can’t really do anything about it…we can. We’ll sit and have coffee and we talk through it, so it allows us to go through things quickly.”
They’ve been married for five years and together they run what has become a national operation.
The first Donatos was built by Abell’s father Jim on Thurman Ave. Abell says it's still the most lucrative restaurant, but its popularity came from the love of community.
"My dad started when he was 14,15 working in the restaurant, and by age 16, had the opportunity to buy his first place, and the reason he really wanted to was because he wanted to prove that you could be in business and you could keep your principles,” said Abell. “And you could be the good guy…be the good guy and it’s really the golden rule…treat others the way you want to be treated and so our mission statement is to promote good will throughout product principles, people, and our service and that’s been for 57 years now…and we’re staying true to that.”
Krouse didn't marry into the business. He's been with Donatos for 20 years and became the CEO 10 years ago. But he always falls back on Jim Grote's founding ways.
“One of my favorites is Jim, when he built the first store, he visualized in his head exactly, like every single detail of the picture of what it would look like and when it came time and he had the money and the ability to build it, he built it exactly like he pictured it. And was like the perfect example of visualization and he visualized it as having black brick, for some reason, so he had to build it in black brick. So now today, our new stores, we build them with black brick,” said Krouse.
And that visualization has led to immense innovation and growth.
“We just introduced a whole line of cauliflower crust pizzas with a plant-based sausage and we have some that are kind of designed that you can order or you can create your own, so we try and stay current with what people want,” Krouse said. “We just recently finalized an agreement to partner with Red Robin gourmet burgers, .and we’ve been testing for the last 2 years a smaller version of our menu offered in their restaurant. It’s our pizza, it’s just baked in their line…it allows them to offer burger and pizza at their restaurant, so it’s great for them and for us. It allows us to expand across 50 states.”
And it's not just the family that comes from Ohio.
“I would say our pepperoni pizza about 80 percent of the ingredients that go in there all come from Ohio. We make the dough ourselves, pepperoni comes from Ohio, Ohio’s a huge part of our story. The state is important to us,” said Krouse. "We have a division called Jane’s Dough Foods and we make frozen pizzas… we have a brand called Sonoma Flatbreads… it’s a gluten-free pizza line, and they’re in 8,000 grocery stores across the country and they’re all made right here in Columbus, Ohio.”
A sense of pride resonates throughout the business.
“We’re proud of our roots. It’s not just giving back to Columbus, but our state and where we do business. It’s important,” said
“To me I couldn’t imagine living somewhere else and I couldn’t imagine basing our company anywhere else,” said Abell.
Donatos also just welcomed in Abell’s son to the family business in December, making it a 3rd-generation company.