Miguel Suarez and Randy Galvan have been cooking pizzas so long, they have sauce in their blood.

Now, the long time friends are passing their passion onto their families — with brothers, sisters, parents and cousins in both families operating the new Pizza Shop, located at 707 S. Jackson St.

After a brief stint into the Mexican restaurant business — Miguel sold La Fonda Del Sol Restaurant shortly after opening it — he decided to go back to his Italian cuisine roots.

“Pizza has been my career since I was 16,” Miguel said. “I thought I’d stick to what I know best.”

Miguel worked his way up the ranks at Pizza Hut, but after 12 and a half years, seven of those as manager, he decided to embark on his own.

“We started seeing a lot of (pizza restaurant) competition coming in,” Miguel said. “We wanted to see if we could make an affordable pizza. For years, we’ve been thinking about it. We had no idea that we could accomplish that.”

Miguel and Randy grew up in Jacksonville and have been friends since the sixth grade. They graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1995.

“I wanted to do something for myself and my family, and to try something different,” Randy said. “I always wanted to manage, and this was a good opportunity to do it.”

Luck came to the pair when a friend offered them use of the former Milano’s building with the only stipulation — “pay me as you can.” The Pizza Shop opened on Nov. 29.

“Me and Randy, we’ve been scraping everything together for the last year and a half,” Miguel said. “We didn’t take out a loan against it or anything. We (had) a small Christmas, but it will pay off in the future.”

The Pizza Shop is almost entirely run by the Suarez and Galvan families — and these families have experience. Between the two owners, they have four brothers and four cousins who have worked for pizza companies before.

“We just jumped in not knowing,” Miguel said. “We knew the product, but we did not know what came with that. We haven’t had a day off since we’ve been there.

“There were many times when we weren’t sure whether we were going to make it or not. Slowly, the more people who realize we are there, the customers are coming, and they are supporting us. We have understanding wives, because it is not easy to go without at Christmas time.”

Miguel has four children and Randy has three. Pizza has supplied many meals for the owners’ large families.

“We’ve had enough (pizza),” Miguel said. “But, our kids love pizza, and they don’t mind eating it for lunch and dinner.”

Both families have been supportive of the venture — working, cooking and painting for free.

“We’re here all the time, day and night,” Randy said. “We’re here every day.”

“They were very supportive,” Miguel added, “but they know it’s tough. They’ve all been there — mom and dad — painting, scrubbing, cleaning.”

Pizza Shop’s employees are fluent in Spanish, meaning this pizzeria — one of five locally — is able to tap into a growing Jacksonville market.

“A lot of our customers are Hispanic,” Miguel said. “They feel very welcome.”

The Pizza Shop is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with a lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. To order, call 903-589-1782.

Recommended for you