DIXON – Like so many other business owners who close up shop, the Khans could have just given up the ghost, left the area, and found another way to make a living.
But they like Dixon. They like Sterling. Their boys are young, and still in school.
So when Arif Khan made the financial decision to give up his Domino’s Pizza franchises, his wife, Anne, had a backup plan: go it on their own.
Arif, 45, most recently owned three Domino’s franchises: in Dixon, Sterling and Clinton, Iowa. (At one point over the past 25 years, he had eight franchises.)
He closed the Sterling site in June 2012, and the Dixon and Clinton stores early this year. He kept the building leases in Dixon and Clinton, though, and now he’s working for Anne.
On March 3, Anne, 43, opened Zaza’s Pizza, a carryout and delivery eatery, in the former Domino’s spot. Its “Khancept,” as she calls it, is “accessible gourmet.”
Her goal is to make a wide variety of food unique to Zaza’s – food you can’t quite get at other local restaurants – but still keep it simple.
“Our business plan is to be totally different,” she said.
Among the items on the menu are soups, sandwiches, wraps, gyros, pasta, meatballs, wings, pizza and desserts.
Nothing is fried, Anne said, and most of the food is made fresh on site, except for the dough. That’s made and baked a few blocks away at Baker Street in downtown Dixon, using the Khans’ butter-infused recipe. A gluten-free variety is available.
They use a three-cheese blend for their pizza that includes muenster, and other cheeses are available. They have nine sauces, including hummus. They make a Reuben pizza, a fajita steak pizza, a mac and cheese pizza, and a Mediterranean flatbread pizza.
They’re selling a lot of sandwiches right now, too, Arif said. They have ciabatta, focaccia and cranberry-wild rice bread. Chicago-style tzatziki for the gyros. Pizza burgers, too, with tiramisu for dessert.
“This is the kind of food that we like, that our kids like,” Anne said.
She plans to open in Clinton with the same format in mid-May, and later on down the road, a sit-down Zaza’s in Sterling, where the Khans live.
Zaza’s delivers not only to Dixon but to Sterling, Rock Falls, Polo ... anywhere within about a 15-mile radius, Arif said. The Kahns have 15 employees, kept from their Domino’s days, and are hiring more. They cater, too.
Arif, 45, dropped the franchise, he said, because Domino’s is changing its theme and requiring franchise owners to remodel their stores. That would have cost $70,000 to $80,000 at each site, which was more than he wanted to invest, Arif said.
Anne came up with the idea of opening her own restaurant, named after their four boys – Zack, 16, Ammad, 12, Zain, 7, and Aidan, 2.
“We always wanted to do something on our own,” she said.
How to order
Zaza's Pizza: The Great Khancept
122 N. Peoria Ave., Dixon
815-288-9292 or 815-284-9000
10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday
10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.