By RACHEL SHUBIN
Special to the Star and Wave
VILLAS — Brazilian immigrant Adelia Jonas has been making pizza for 18 years, and does her job with a smile on her face.
Jonas and her husband own the Domino’s Pizza at 2200 Bayshore Road in Villas.
But Jonas is making more than pizza — she also is making a name for herself both nationally and internationally.
In 2010, Jonas was chosen as Domino’s U.S. Manager of the Year. She received an award at a Domino’s convention in Las Vegas. A plaque hangs in her store for customers to see and recognize her achievement.
“It is the biggest and nationally recognized award we have in our system. Everyone from all the Domino’s in the world gets together there,” Jonas said. “There were over 7,000 people attending. I am very involved in my work and that is why I believe I was chosen.”
This year she was featured in a television commercial for a national Domino’s campaign, traveling to Hollywood to film the commercial.
“It was very exciting because I did not know I was going to Hollywood to shoot a commercial,” she said. “I had an interview with a producer before we shot the commercial about remodeling stores.”
And Jonas recently spoke with Domino’s franchisees and employees in Brazil, where they have more than 200 Domino’s stores. She said she loves communicating with people in the restaurant business and relates to the ultimate goal to bring people together through food.
Jonas said she did not always plan to own her own pizza store. She was living in Brazil and studying for a degree in psychology when she received a phone call from a friend who had just bought his own Domino’s pizza franchise. She put her college degree on hold and left Brazil for America in 2000, heading to New Jersey to work for her friend.
“I always wanted to come to America and learn English. I thought I would come for a couple of months,” Jonas said. “I was planning to go back and finish my degree, but I fell in love with the business.”
Jonas said she started her career by making pizzas and became fluent in English through her interactions with fellow employees. Soon Jonas began to answer phones and take orders, working her way up to being the store manager.
“I worked on the corporate side of Domino’s, where I met my husband. Eight years later, we bought our own franchise,” Jonas said.
Jonas and her husband, Robert, had the option to buy their franchise in Cherry Hill or Villas. After driving around Cape May County and seeing the sunsets, the choice to be near the shore was clear. They also had the opportunity to talk with people and have genuine conversations about the area.
While Jonas’ Domino’s shop is a chain name in a town with many local pizzerias, the competition doesn’t scare her away, she said. Her ability to push her business to succeed is because of her customers.
“I believe that people buy from people. We hold a very well-known brand name known not just for our pizza but our technology,” Jonas said. “I have good connections with our customers. They know who I am and I’m involved with the community, and that’s how I stay competitive.”
Customers can place an order on the Domino’s website and track their order’s progress, from the pizza being made and the name of the employee making it, to the pizza being en route for delivery.
Her community ties are evident when customers come in the store to ask if she will be at local events. For Lower Township’s National Night Out on Aug. 2, Jonas said the store attended and gave away more than 1,000 slices of pizza.
Jonas said her shop stays local because she and her husband live in the area and she employs locals in the store.
Customers come into the store and see Jonas, and know the service is going to exceed expectations. They trust the food they are buying as well as the location.
“My customers know me and know they will get delicious food, even if I’m not the one preparing it,” she said. “I don’t treat my customers as a transaction, money for food. I like to have small talks and conversations with my customers. They know who I am and they ask me about my family in Brazil.”
Jonas has 30 employees at her store, especially locals. Before her employees leave to make a delivery, she tells them to buckle up and drive safely.
“I employ high school and college students. Even people from the sheriff’s office work here,” she said.
Jonas said she makes sure school is a priority for her employees.
“I ask them what they are learning in school and what projects they have coming up. School comes first and I want to make sure my staff is doing well and keeping up in school,” she said.
She said being self-employed is sometimes a challenge.
“When you have your own business, you have to stay focused and have the right mindset. You will be working harder than ever before but for yourself,” she said. “You have a misconception that when you own your own business you have more freedom, but you are now the main part of your organization.”
Jonas says she counts pepperoni slices in her sleep, so a balance between work and life is important.
“This area is a very good place to work and live. I find time to have a good work and life balance so I can enjoy this beautiful place,” Jonas said. “We made the right choice to be surrounded by the water.”
She said she does not get to the beach that often, not an uncommon reality for year-round workers.
“I don’t get to the beach much, but when I do I love doing yoga on the beach and seeing the dolphins swim by,” Jonas said. “I love to go to the zoo anytime I have the chance. I
go to the zoo at lunchtime and see the animals being fed.
When she needs to get her mind off things, she goes to Wildwood.
“I take my husband and we go for a ride on the Ferris wheel,” she said.