First floor, no street frontage, dodgy access and a tiny kitchen — fundamentally wrong in so many ways, but it worked. This was the birthplace of HELL, and we operated out of Kelburn for eight years before moving the kitchen to the top of Cuba St in 2004.
Customers often recall their first experience being in the original Kelburn store.
HELL we even called it the centre of the world after so many people all over the planet told us it was their virgin HELL meal! Walking up the back stairs through the kitchen, avoiding banging their head on the shelf (look out fool), and some even remember when we had a dine-in section with views over Wellington (or if you worked for HELL, the place where we got trashed and launched firecrackers out the window). Good times.
In the early days, we tried everything: rice tandoori pizza, delivery milkshakes, curries, mud cake, flame bread — all in search of the wicked menu that is HELL today. In 2000, Callum partnered with his mate Stu, and together they opened the Hataitai store. We loved this earthquake hazard of a building, from the collapsing floor, homemade counters and menu boards, and excellent staff and customers that made it an institution in Hataitai. HELL had started to grow.
We opened another store in Northland the following year and set up a prep kitchen that serviced our three stores. Delivering around Wellington in the Escargo with occasional brakes and handling like a 4-wheeled sailing ship in the wind, we started honing our systems and products. We then opened in Petone — our first 'quality' fit-out.
In 2003 Warren partnered with the guys and helped grow the business with his franchise knowledge. Our 4 plus 10 franchised stores in the first year, 16 in the second, 21 in the third year and 15 in 2006. We finished 06 with 66 stores, wicked franchisees and happy customers. The time was right to move onwards and upwards, so we sold the NZ business and went in search of new countries for HELL. First, we went to London, then Brisbane, Seoul, India and Vancouver.
The early days of HELL were about living our business every day, working damned hard and making tasty pizzas. These were some of the best times of our lives and helped shape the business into what it is now.
In 2009, we bought our New Zealand business back and started the resurrection. The old owners didn't get it. We took out the trash, had fun with our marketing, improved ingredients and launched some new tasty products. Since then, Warren and Stu have moved on, but many of the original HELL legends remain in the driving seat. We’ve grown the business from strength to strength, and it’s now one of the most successful homegrown stories in New Zealand, creating fanatical fans and loyal & successful franchisees in New Zealand and Australia.
For the best damned pizza in this life or the next... See you in HELL!
EVILLY YOURS - CALLUM