Our Founder... Joe Corbi
Joseph Victor Corbi was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 10 1944. He attended St. Bernadine's Elementary School and graduated from Calvert Hall High School in 1962. Joe learned the pizza business at an early age by working with his father Joe Corbi Sr. founder of Baltimore Pizza Crust Company.
Joe served in the U.S. Navy for 2 years aboard the U.S.S. Hassayampa. After being discharged, he returned home and worked for Westinghouse. Eventually he went back to Baltimore Pizza Crust Company and became general manager. Early in the 1980's Joe was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He left Baltimore Pizza Crust and took a year to deal with his illness. During that time, after much soul searching, he decided to put his knowledge to work by starting his own business.
Joe Corbi's Wholesale Pizza, Inc. opened it's doors on December 5, 1983. It started with a small bakery and store with two employees, Joe and a young man named Ted. Because he had to mix the dough, bake and work the ovens, take care of the store and answer the phones, Joe asked his sister Joan Bell (a former school teacher) to join him in his venture in January of 1984. Joe taught her the bakery business and introduced her to the business and introduced her to the business world. They spent many happy and constructive hours talking about his dreams and expectations.
Joe had a keen sense of business. He was very practical, but also very creative in his business and financial management. For the first year and a half Joe and Joan did most of the work together. Baking and packing the crusts, shredding and bagging the cheese, packing the meats using a handmade funnel made by Joe Corbi Sr. and making fresh pizzas to sell in the store. Keeping labor costs down was essential. One of his early resources for labor was the Howard County Vocational School. He was able to employ at a minimal wage, some young culinary students who were happy to work at a job, giving them the experiences they needed in the field they had chosen for their future. He also hired employees from an agency called FIRN. This agency placed people from foreign countries who were unable to work in many jobs because of the language barriers.
There were many times when family members would come to the bakery to lend a hand. Joe's nephew Edward Bell, at age 15, actually helped build the bakery with the guidance of his grandfather, Joe Corbi Sr. Grandma Corbi also helped when she was needed doing a little bit of many jobs, one which included developing our special recipe pizza sauce. Joe's oldest son Victor, would come to help at a very young age, exposing him to the business, which would be his father's legacy to him.
Dealing with companies that were willing to take a chance on him was a gift Joe used wisely. He researched vendors and suppliers thoroughly to get the best price with the best companies, to meet his standards. His relationship with these companies was excellent. Sometimes the balance in the checkbook didn't quite cover the expenses. Joe would say to pay the bills; the money would be there. It always was. The store grew very fast. It's reputation was spread by word of mouth.
Joe's dream was to have schools and non profit organizations use the pizza in the form of a kit, to raise money for their organizations. He loved the idea of working with families, children and their groups to help them reach their goals. He believed it to be a good, clean way to make a living.
The day the first representative of a non profit organization (Sharon McClosky) walked in and asked if she could use Joe's pizza crust to raise money, was the beginning of a humble man's dream. That dream grew into a lucrative business, but most of all it's success is measured by the good it has done for so many worthwhile organizations and charitable causes. There was never any advertising or solicitations. Once it started, it spread from one group to the next. When asked how they hear about Joe Corbi's, the answer was always by word of mouth.
The first pizza kit consisted of three 12" honeycomb crusts in one plastic bag, a pound of unseasoned cheese and one can of sauce, packed by a company in Hurlock, MD. These were put into a plain white box with a stick on label on the top of the box. The pizza kit today consists of three individually wrapped 12" honeycomb pizza crusts, baked fresh daily in Joe Corbi's bakery, three bags of a special cheese blend of cheeses and three bags of sauce.
Through the years, Joe Corbi's has received many awards, humanitarian as well as awards from charitable and non profit organizations. In 1994 Joe Corbi was chosen as Baltimore's Entrepreneur of the year.
When Joe realized he would no longer be able to beat his illness and could no longer carry on as head of his company, he began grooming his nephew Rocco Violi, son of his eldest sister, Francis Violi, to take on his responsibility. Joe recognized Rocco's abilities as a good businessman and as someone with integrity, who would live up to his standards while keeping the company solid and on the path Joe had chosen.
Joe Corbi passed away on May 20, 1999. He is survived by his sons Victor, Alexander and Matthew.