The Albion hotspot, Gina’s, serves café style meals to Albion College students, staff and residents. Its owner is Gina Pritchard.
Pritchard is an Albion resident and has been for years. She is even an Albion College ‘85 Alumna.
For 20 years Pritchard has worked in the restaurant business. Her interest in the restaurant business started from her early exposure to it from her family’s involvement in restaurants.
“I’ve been folding pizza boxes since I was five years old,” Pritchard said.
Despite her years of exposure to the business, Pritchard admits she was not an expert in the restaurant world.
“I really did not know what I was doing,” Pritchard said.
She had never owned her own business and had a lot more to learn.
After her graduation from Albion College, Pritchard opened her first restaurant in downtown Albion in 1986, Gina’s Pizza and Deli. It was fairly similar to what Gina’s is now, a pizza place with soups, salads, but this restaurant contained less seating. However, they did a great amount of deliveries. Often there would be 20 to 30 deliveries sent to Wesley Hall at a time.
At first Pritchard struggled with finding reliable employees, but she assures me she has found kind and trustworthy ones now.
After 15 successful years spent working long hours with a business partner who did not pull his own weight, Pritchard decided she needed a change and for the next eight years she worked at Chrysler.
At Chrysler, Pritchard worked first in sales and then in finance.
“The reason I left Chrysler was that my heart was in the restaurant business and I had the opportunity to have the building which I’m in and just love,” Pritchard said.
She kept what she learned from her previous Gina’s Pizza and Deli in mind when opening the current location.
“Bigger is not always better,” Pritchard said.
Now her restaurant seats 65 and she has 13 employees instead of her previous six .
Despite her years of experience, opening Gina’s was no walk in the park. Although the new spot was extremely busy, she struggled during her first year.
“We had to work out all of those little kinks,” Pritchard said.
In her third year at 1313 E. Michigan Ave. Gina is turning a profit. Even during the summer when college students are not in town, Gina’s catered for many business and factories. The Albion College staff also frequented Gina’s.
The students of Albion College provide a great deal of business to Gina’s during the summer and the school year.
“Anything the college brings to me now is just extra,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard seemed very content and proud about her business and growth.
She stressed how it is important not to give up. Pritchard explained that had quit when the going got tough she would not be where she is today.
“I’ve gotten older. I started out at 25 years old and now I’m 50. I’ve just maturated with my businesses. I’ve learned so much from each one of them and this one’s the right fit,” Pritchard said.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Pritchard has years’ worth of advice.
“If you have a job that you like, and you are determined, you will succeed,” Pritchard said.
Pritchard does what she loves and she refused to give up on her passion for the restaurant business.
“It’s all led to this – being very happy about going to work,” Pritchard said.
Photo by Alex Carey