|Gina Marsaglia at Pizza Port Bressi Ranch, the company’s newest location|
GUEST BLOG / By Beth Demmon, contributing writer, West Coaster Beer and Beverage Magazine and website--Meeting a celebrity in real life is fraught with uncertainty. Will my mental picture match reality, or are they actually a pompous airhead? I’ve had mixed success; Donald Faison was as charming as his character Turk on the show Scrubs, but Mark Wahlberg (excuse me, Marky Mark) was kind of a butt, although admittedly a funky one. Win some, lose some.
Local celebrities are a different breed. Some eternally chase more widespread recognition. Others, like Gina Marsaglia, are content to ignore the legendary aura that surrounds their name, focusing solely on the work yet to be done. She’s the CEO, president, and co-founder of Pizza Port Brewing Company—an unpretentious giant among giants completely unashamed of her extreme devotion for all-you-can-drink party buses. “People that know me know that is right up my alley,” laughs Marsaglia. “I just love it.”
|Gina and brother Vince Marsaglia at under-construction Pizza Port Solana Beach bar|
For a long time, Vince’s brewing hobby was just that: a hobby. But when the Marsaglia’s tried to get financing for their second location in Carlsbad in order to officially launch a brewing component to their business, the Small Business Association said they had to prove themselves as brewers before they’d give them additional funds. “So that’s what we did,” says Marsaglia. In 1992, Pizza Port became one of the first official breweries/brewpubs in San Diego.
Marsaglia’s success is part right place, right time, part early to market, and part absolute drive. “When I do something, I try not to just half ass it,” she says. She also credits having three children in four years—all while expanding Pizza Port into the empire it is today—with keeping her organized. “I didn’t have time to work on it later, because I had other things that I was doing or other commitments with the kids. So [parenting] really did help me with time management more and [how to] delegate.”
|Gina, with her Mustang in the foreground, on the day Pizza Port Solana Beach opened|
|Gina and Vince Marsaglia at Pizza Port Carlsbad|
Stop, Collaborate and Listen
Being a trailblazer in what’s now one of the best beer scenes in the world positioned Pizza Port to take advantage of the uniquely collaborative industry. Marsaglia admits there have been too many collaborations to pick a favorite, but she chuckles when she recalls some of the early ones with other pioneers like Stone Brewing.
|Gina, Greg, Vince, Steve|
How about Baroness of Beer?
Koch is one of the few people with a moniker bestowed upon him by the beer community: the Beer Jesus. Marsaglia is another, often referred to as the Godmother of San Diego Craft Beer. I ask her how the unofficial, but pervasive title makes her feel.
“Oh my gosh, it makes me feel old,” she says, laughing. (Side note: we laughed a lot during the interview. It’s awesome when beer royalty has a sense of humor.) “But I’m honored, to be honest. It’s an honor.”
Pizza Port 2020: The Future
Pizza Port now has five locations across Southern California, as well as partnerships with Petco Park and Pechanga Arena San Diego (a.k.a. Sports Arena). Brewpub number six is coming soon to Imperial Beach, and while Marsaglia doesn’t discount the possibility of more after that, she asserts they’ll never stray far from San Diego. “Expanding into new markets doesn’t really make sense, because people want local… and I just love the sleepy little beach towns,” she muses.
Today, Marsaglia makes more top-level decisions than day-to-day operations. But she’s always game to get her hands dirty. “My favorite thing is still making pizzas,” she says. Sounds like a pretty cool mom to me.