STOW — There’s a new pizza shop in town, and apparently it’s the people’s choice.

Stow Master Pizza, located at 4437 Kent Road inside the Acme plaza, opened its 11th location on Jan. 24. Three days later it competed in the Stow-Munroe Falls Community Foundation’s annual Pizza Palooza, where it was named the winner of the People’s Choice Award. For the award, Master Pizza got the most votes by people who tried its pizza at the community event at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.

Ryan Shuck, who owns the Stow franchise with his father, Bob, said he and his dad were joking they were going to "bring home a paddle" (a Pizza Palooza award) but didn’t expect to actually win one.

"We were just excited to be there," Ryan Schuck said. "When they called us up, it was an awesome experience for me. I’ve been working in food for 10 years and I hadn’t really done any competitions ... I was honestly kind of shocked."

Approximately 1,300 slices of pizza were handed out at the Master Pizza booth at Pizza Palooza, Ryan Schuck said. The shop offered three choices of pizza: Pepperoni Passion, Manhattan Pizza and pizza with extra cheese.

"Stow’s been awesome for us so far," Schuck said. "We felt very welcome at Pizza Palooza ... We’re definitely happy to be here and I think that business has been great so far."

As owner-operators, Ryan and his dad have been putting in long hours at the pizza shop, Ryan Schuck said.

In addition to taking pickup orders and offering delivery for a standard charge to Stow, Kent, Silver Lake and parts of Munroe Falls, Master Pizza can comfortably seat 25-29 customers, Shuck said, adding people are making good use of the dining room.

"We’ve had quite a few dine-ins already," he said. "A lot of people coming in for lunch, kind of different from what I had in Twinsburg." Before opening the Stow store, Schuck was the general manager of Twinsburg Master Pizza, which seats about 12 dine-in customers.

The pizza shops has 11 full-time employees and eight part-time employees.

Ryan Schuck said his shop could not have won the People’s Choice Award without the Master Pizza recipes. He also said the corporate owners are passionate about what they do. "It’s been very cool to get the opportunity to work with them and use their recipes," he said.

Michael LaMarca, owner and CEO of the Master Pizza Franchise Group LLC, said he has been making pizzas all his life. "I love it," said LaMarca, who just turned 40. "I grew up in a pizza shop in Strongsville, then moved to Mayfield." 

Master Pizza is one of the fastest growing pizza companies in Northeast Ohio with 10 current locations and several more opening in 2019.

LaMarca said Master Pizza has also climbed the ranks in Pizza Today’s "Hot 100 List" busiest pizza companies in America in each of the past three years, climbing as high as number 69 on the list in 2015. It also has been recently recognized as one of the "Top 50" companies in Northeast Ohio in Smart Business Magazine’s "Top 50."

"Opening in Stow has been a target of ours since we started planning the revival of Master Pizza," LaMarca said. "We have a strong contingency on our website and social media that has been requesting a Master Pizza in the Stow area for long time." He said the Stow store, in essence, replaces the Master Pizza shop that was on Barney’s Busy Corners in Cuyahoga Falls.

He noted Stow Master Pizza will do a variety of fundraisers for schools and groups.

Master Pizza, inducted into the Pizza Hall of Fame in 2015, will serve a wide range of pizzas, calzones, subs, salads, wings and pastas.

"We are always adding new pizzas to the menu," LaMarca said, "we want to be ahead of all the trends and keep our pizzas interesting." 

LaMarca said his among his most popular pies is the Pepperoni Passion, which is made with two kinds of pepperoni: standard pepperoni and another kind called "cup and char" pepperoni, which refers to how the slices form a cup and get crispy when baked. Another big seller is Master’s Detroit Style Pan Pizza, which has sauce on top.

The Detroit pizza, he said, was invented in the Motor City by a man who worked at a Ford plant and discovered he could use the metal trays used for storing nuts and bolts to make deep-dish pizza. Master Pizza sells pizza in five sizes: small, medium, large, extra large — all in round pies — and the 9x13-inch rectangular Detroit pizza.

LaMarca is a long-standing member and team captain of the United States Pizza Team, which travels around the country and around the world. Most recently, LaMarca traveled to Shanghai, China, and competed for a third time at the Chinese World Pizza Championships and placed first for Best Non-Traditional Pizza in the World. His team won with its Popeye Pizza on a Detroit Style Pan Pizza.

Stow Master Pizza is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. To place an order, call 234-815-1100. Find Master Pizza (Stow) on Facebook, masterpizza on Instagram, @masterpizza on Twitter, and online.

Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, or @SteveWiandt_RPC.