A former Upper Crust owner, who allegedly exploited his former employees, is now working for the new Peel Pizza Company, which will open in its former location in Hingham Square next week.
Brendan Higgins, who was a co-owner of Upper Curst is the brother-in-law of Peel Pizza Company’s owner, Matthew Troy.
On Thursday, Troy said Higgins will be working for his new pizza business as a manager, but wants no affiliation to the Upper Crust.
“This company is 100 percent owned by me,” Troy said. “It’s 100 percent my investment dollars. We have zero affiliation with the Upper Crust and we would like to keep it that way.”
Higgins was a co-owner of the Upper Crust with Joshua Huggard and founder Jordan Tobins before they were forced to slice up their business at an auction last winter after filing for bankruptcy.
The filing came after years of controversy for the local chain. Unfair labor charges and legal wrangling amongst owners dominated headlines over the past few years.
Immigrant employees claim Upper Crust took advantage of workers and seized back wages from them, according to the Boston Globe.
The pizza company was accused of underpaying Brazilian immigrant workers for long work weeks, while its owners indulged in luxuries such as a yacht, according to a 2010 investigation published in the Globe.
The Brazilian employees took their complaints to federal labor officials, who ordered the pizza chain to pay workers about $350,000 in overtime.
Upper Crust executives then allegedly slashed employee wages, resulting in a class-action lawsuit and another labor investigation.
Higgins, Tobins and Huggard have repeatedly denied these allegations, according to Boston.com.
In October, Upper Crust filed for bankruptcy protection after years of financial and labor troubles. A month later, a bankruptcy trustee closed 10 Upper Crust locations, including the one in Hingham Square because the business had almost no cash and few supplies after executives paid themselves a month’s salary in advance.
Al Carvelli, a Hingham resident, originally bought the business at an auction and planned to reopen it as Upper Crust in the square. But just a few months after the purchase, he changed his mind and sold the business a to Troy.
Troy, a first-time business owner from Darien, CT, does not believe Higgins will bring any of his problems from Upper Crust with him to the new pizza shop.
Troy said the Upper Crust failed because it grew "too large” and “out of control.”
The Peel Pizza Company is expected to open Tuesday, April 30, and its owner said he could not be more excited.
“I am looking forward to doing business with the great people in town,” he said.
Troy, who still lives in Darien, decided to open in Hingham because he has family around the South Shore and is planning on moving to the area in the future.
His new pizza shop will serve thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas, calzones and salad. Pizzas can be ordered by the slice or by the whole and guests can choose from over a dozen toppings including prosciutto, chorizo, baby clams and even chicken tenders.
Troy prides his business on having fresh cut vegetables, fresh topping and freshly made dough.
“Here, we put quality above all else,” he said. “I want to make this a pizza company where I would want to eat and a place where my children could eat.”
The new business at 73 South Street will also offer free delivery to Hingham residents.