Toppers Pizza recently opened on William on what was already the most pizza-dense stretch of Ann Arbor. Within a one-block radius of William and Maynard are three pizza parlors, each with a unique claim to fame: NYPD (New York style, and often voted best, period), NeoPapalis (the only Neapolitan pizza in town), and Cottage Inn (the original pizza in Ann Arbor). You might expect Toppers founder and president Scott Gittrich to defend his entrance into this spot with some fancy talk about market segmentation, but he’s having none of it. His pizza, he says, is as good or better than anyone’s.

“We steal market share. That’s what we do. We go to cities where people are already eating pizza. We think what we do is a little bit better, and we deliver it fast. When we get people to try us, they ‘fire’ their old pizza place. So that means sometimes we’re in places that look pretty competitive. But look, if you can’t stomach the competition, you can’t be in the pizza business.”

Local Toppers franchisee Mahmoud (“Moe”) Baydoun also dismisses the formidable competition by saying “you compete with everyone when you have a restaurant.” And he also stresses that delivery, not walk-in, is their forte (although it’s an attractive enough eat-in spot, by campus standards). “We’re faster than anybody else. We’ve been getting orders to people in about twenty-five minutes.” He can’t precisely define the delivery area–think of it as student-ish.

Baydoun, twenty-eight, along with a partner, owns a few more Detroit area franchises, but this is his first pizza store. Though this is Toppers’ very first store in Michigan, Gittrich says more will follow. The Wisconsin-based chain currently has about fifty locations, many on college campuses, and supplements pizza with wings, grinders, breadsticks and sauces, and even a quesadilla.

Toppers, 607 E. William, 585-5337. Daily 10:30 a.m.-4 a.m.