Appetite for expansion: Nova Scotia pizza chain looking for larger piece of Atlantic Canadian pie

SYDNEY – Nova Scotia’s competitive food industry was all Greek to Dimitri Neonakis when he opened his first pizza shop in downtown Halifax in 1991.

But it didn’t take the native of Greece long to spread his entrepreneurial wings. From a humble start in a downtown Halifax basement, Alexandra’s Pizza now boasts 14 locations in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. And more are on the way.

“We’re always up for expansion,” said Neonakis.

“But with that said, we are committed to maintaining what we already have in Cape Breton, Halifax and PEI It’s important that we maintain a consistency of product so that our customers can know what they are getting when they order.

“And we want to stay close to our home base so we’re probably looking no further than New Brunswick right now. We’re looking at Moncton and Fredericton. For now, we’re not looking to go too far yet.”

Dimitri Neonakis, founder of Alexandra's Pizza: “We're always up for expansion.
Dimitri Neonakis, founder of Alexandra’s Pizza: “We’re always up for expansion.” FILE – CONTRIBUTED

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The Alexandra’s Pizza brand is now firmly established in both the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. There are eight franchise locations in the HRM, including the original Queen’s Street shop that is now situated on nearby Grafton Street.

There are four Alexandra’s in the CBRM with restaurants located in downtown Sydney, Sydney River, North Sydney and Glace Bay. There is also an Alexandra’s eatery in downtown Charlottetown.

According to Neonakis, the expansions reflect the connection the chain has made with residents of Canada’s east coast.

“We’re very Maritimes,” proclaimed the Halifax-based restaurateur.

“We’ve become known for our pizza, for our poutine and for our donuts. And I am pleased to say that we are very popular with students. So, yes, I like to say we are very Maritimes.”


Indeed, the aforementioned menu items have traditionally been gobbled up by students at high schools and universities. That’s why Antigonish appears likely to become the next Nova Scotia community to welcome an Alexandra’s Pizza outlet to its list of culinary offerings, according to Justin Ayre, who operates the four Cape Breton locations and is involved with the company’s expansion plans.

“Antigonish is probably next up,” confirmed Ayre, who said a prospective franchisee has already expressed an interest in opening an Alexandra’s restaurant in the town that is home to St. Francis Xavier University and its almost 4,000 students.

“I used to work at a pizza shop in Antigonish and I know that it used to get really busy, it was really nuts sometimes.”

Ayre said that business at the Cape Breton locations has returned for the most part although he noted that skyrocketing inflation rates have taken a toll as consumers become more and more conscious of the rising cost of living. His flagship downtown Sydney location is also suffering due to a major redesign and upgrade to the Charlotte Street block that includes Alexandra’s Pizza.

“Coming out of COVID, this is the time when we should be re-hiring and training employees but it’s just not convenient for customers to have to park a block away to pick up their orders or even for our delivery drivers to get in and out quickly. It’s been rough.”

Justin Ayre, Alexandra's Pizza franchisee:
Justin Ayre, Alexandra’s Pizza franchisee: “Next up is Antigonish and I know from working there that it can get pretty busy, it can get nuts.” FILE – David Jala


In the meantime, the Alexandra’s Pizza executives said that they are interested in expanding but they do not want to do so at the expense of the product.

“Overall, we’re focusing more on the consistency of our product and running the businesses that we already have going on than on trying to open up more shops,” said Neonakis, who acknowledged that the restaurant is named for his daughter who was just five-years-old when he opened his first pizza shop.

“With that said, we are open to expansion because it provides jobs, it provides opportunities for ownership and investment, it’s good for the local economies and it’s good for us.”

“And we want to stay close to our home base so we’re looking in New Brunswick at Moncton and Fredericton. For now, we’re not looking to go too far yet.”

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