Marcus Colson and his parents spent much of 2002 distributing fliers and canvassing neighborhoods. They were spreading the word about their new, local restaurant that served pizza made from recipes they’d created themselves.
That restaurant, Pizza by the Harbour, is celebrating its 18th anniversary in July – and since its opening, a lot has changed for the business and the world around it. Menu offerings have come and gone. The surrounding Cicero and Morse Lake area has seen new developments. Much of the restaurant’s advertising is done online instead of door to door.
Through it all, Pizza by the Harbour has continued to attract longtime residents and newcomers alike. Nearly two decades later, customers are still raving about the crunchy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside pizza, and the freshly rolled breadsticks.
“I want our restaurant to be known for a really good-tasting pizza, and for people to walk away with a good feeling every time,” Colson says. “We know as long as we’re putting a smile on people’s faces and we’re truly happy to serve customers, it really shows, on the phone and in person.”
Pizza by the Harbour sticks to carry-out and delivery orders, primarily serving those who live within its five-mile delivery radius. However, customers – many of whom refer to the restaurant as simply Pizza Harbour – also come from locales like Westfield, Fishers and Tipton to grab carry-out and take advantage of the discount offered to those outside the delivery range.
When Colson and his parents, Steve and Bonnie Colson of Noblesville, decided to open a pizza place, they wanted to own an independent business serving dishes that showcased their own tastes. The family selected the site of a former shoe store that, at the time, was surrounded only by grass. They relied on Colson’s experience working at a pizzeria in college, as well as their own palates, to build the menu. They believed that if they liked it, others would too.
And others certainly did. It didn’t take long, Colson says, before folks were talking about the Colsons’ new restaurant. Lines began to form.
“Success comes when people tell you it’s their favorite and they won’t go anywhere else for pizza,” says Colson, a Tipton native who currently lives in Fishers. “It’s not the cheapest pizza, and we don’t want it to be. We want quality ingredients, so people know it’s going to be what they want.”
Not that there haven’t been adjustments made along the way. Colson says he and the rest of the 17-member crew at Pizza by the Harbour regularly tinker with the menu, adding or subtracting offerings based on popularity and new ideas from employees, vendors and customers.
The traditional pepperoni pizza is the perennial favorite at the restaurant, but other popular selections include some that are unique to Pizza by the Harbour. Case in point –the Harbour Hot Chicken pizza, featuring breaded chicken marinated in hot sauce and served on a ranch base. A new item, introduced by way of employee suggestion, also shows promise – it’s a pizza featuring macaroni and cheese with Cajun spice and bacon.
And then there are the stuffed breadsticks. Customers can select any two pizza toppings for the filling (pepperoni and cheese are the top picks, according to Colson).
The way delivery drivers work has changed as well, with printed maps and directions guiding the way when Pizza by the Harbour first opened. Today mobile technology allows drivers to simply rely on their smartphones to find destinations, and the internet is now a tool for everything from ordering pizzas to advertising them.
The last 12 months have included some of the biggest changes at Pizza by the Harbour. Colson’s parents retired, and today he’s the sole owner of the restaurant in addition to holding a full-time job as a vice president at Busey Bank in Carmel.
While Pizza by the Harbour’s business model, focused on pickup and delivery, has remained unchanged by the coronavirus pandemic, the restaurant has stepped up its safety procedures to adapt to requirements and concerns. Contactless delivery and pickup are now available.
Colson is confident about Pizza by the Harbour’s future. The business has survived longer than many similar eateries, and has already outlasted one recession. The staff is working on ways to commemorate the restaurant’s 18th anniversary that are in line with coronavirus safety concerns.
“Statistically, we shouldn’t be here,” Colson says. “Most small businesses don’t make it, and you never know what’s around the corner. But I always want to be the best pizza that people have ever had – the best taste, the best flavoring. I want it to be that way every time.”
Pizza by the Harbour is located at 20813 Hague Road in Noblesville. For the latest information, visit pizzabytheharbour.com. Find specials and order on the website, or call 317-674-0044.