Company of the Year

Rusty’s Pizza Parlors

Award Sponsor: Bartlett, Pringle & Wolf

In 1969, Roger and Carol Duncan, two young entrepreneurs, purchased Rusty’s Roast Beef in Isla Vista. Their goal was to fill a niche where families could have somewhere fun to eat out, so they purchased used pizza-making equipment and have not wavered in their creativity and drive towards success for nearly 50 years. Even the company’s signature sauce and crust are the result of individual effort and experimentation.

In the 1970s, Rusty’s added locations on Upper State Street and the Eastside. Both screened black-and-white silent films accompanied by a piano player, and the location on State Street offered free drawing classes with cartoonist Frank Webb. In the 1980s, the Duncans took over the lease of Poor Richards in the downtown area, and opened locations in Goleta and Carpinteria. A number of their restaurants are themed, including a new location on lower State Street that boasts authentic marine memorabilia.

Today, Rusty’s operates 18 locations on the West Coast and remains a family-owned company. Tyler Duncan began serving as president in 2009. His background as a graduate of the USC Marshall School of Business with an IT emphasis has enabled him to create robust systems that allow for a more efficient and cost-effective delivery of product. In fact, Rusty’s was the first restaurant chain in the area to use a call center and a single phone number system.

Throughout its history, Rusty’s has prided itself on its community support, including partnerships with local schools. The company provided food to firefighters responding to the recent disasters, and its efforts on behalf of the Santa Barbara Zoo include donating Duncan the Dinosaur and the Zoo Train engine.