MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Six months ago, a Twin Cities business took a risk few have voluntarily taken.

Before state law changed minimum wage laws in April, the owner of Punch Pizza increased wages to $10 an hour — a $2.5 million investment over the next 10 years.

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The move got the attention of the White House. So much so that one of the owners of Punch and an employee were invited to attend the State of the Union speech in Washington, D.C.

Guests of the First Lady, they were also praised by President Barack Obama. Since then, time has been good to Punch Pizza.

John Puckett is a Punch Pizza co-owner and he is two weeks from opening store number nine in Maple Grove.

“We are hiring 50 new people and it’s a million dollar investment,” Puckett said.

The company has the financial stability to expand at an unexpected time — just six months after raising their wages.

“We’ve seen a big jump in sales and I think part of that is because people feel connected to the investment we are making,” Puckett said.

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Since the announcement and over one of the coldest winters, sales jumped 10 percent year to date.

“I really feel like we got rewarded both with people’s comments and their pocket books,” Puckett said.

They also gained some new leadership.

Nick Chute turned his part-time-gig into his post-collegiate career, proof in some restaurants it’s not just about the customer.

“I was promoted to assistant manager and now I’m on the track to moving into full blown management,” Chute said.

The attention hasn’t just meant more customers and praise.

“Most importantly, we have a stack of applications at each store for people who want to work at Punch Pizza,” Puckett said.

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Punch’s owner says their ideal employee will start part-time, work through school and then join the management team, which means up to a $100,000 annual salary.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield