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Not only is Mod building pizzas at their Hillsboro location, they're building community as well.

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in our Hillsboro's Best special section. Every year, the Tribune solicits feedback from the public for our annual Hillsboro's Best awards.

PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - The Mod Pizza on Cornell Road may be new to Hillsboro, but the restaurants community-minded focus has already inspired a loyal following of hungry customers.Hailing from Portland's rainy northern twin Seattle, Mod Pizza is offering something fast, fresh, and totally individualized at its new location near Orenco Station.

"We make pizzas to serve you," said Ryan Balajadia, general manager of the new location. "That is our mantra."

Serving only individual-sized pies, customers can stroll down a line, picking and choosing what sauces, meats, cheeses, and toppings they want while a "Mod Squad" pizza creator builds it before their eyes, then throws it in a brick-fire oven for a quick, three-minute fire.

And voila, the pizza is served hot and fresh and they don't charge for extra for toppings.

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Location: 4554 NE Cornell Road

Hours: Sunday through Thursday 10:30 a.m to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

"We're so set with having the different pizza companies telling us what we want on our pizzas, it's hard for some people to know what they want," said Eric Harmon, district manager. "We encourage people to get creative."

Balajadia describes it as a people-first company, exemplified in the way they treat both customers and employees.

"Instead of putting money first and having everything else follow, their thing is let's take care of the people, and our people will then take care of the customers, and then, in turn, the business will take care of itself," said Balajadia.

The fast-growing company is finding the strategy successful. In business since 2008 and in Oregon since opening its first location in Beaverton in 2013, the company stirs an unusual dedication in its employees.

"Here at Mod it's all about the energy. It's all about having fun," said Balajadia. "Every employee that's been here for a number of years has a story to tell — a Mod story."

The owners, Scott and Ally Svenson, envisioned the chain as a family and community-oriented place, where pizzas were affordable and employees always had the opportunity to progress.

It's a second-chance company, Balajadia said. Anyone with the right attitude can work there, whatever their past, and will always be paid more than the minimum wage.

The Svensons stay connected to their numerous locations around the Pacific Northwest, popping in for a visit every once in awhile. It makes the company feel more like a family and less corporate, said Balajadia.

Harmon said Mod Pizza stays connected to the community too. The restaurant regularly hosts fundraisers for local schools and nonprofits, donating 20 percent of their sales to the charity cause for one day.

"We are a bigger business but at the same time we want to make sure we are partnering with our local community," said Harmon.

And they want to keep it family-oriented.

"We don't have TVs in our restaurants," said Harmon. "We want people to enjoy the atmosphere. We want people to come in and sit down and talk to each other, and act like it's their dinner table."

Harmon said he's seen a lax in customer service in the restaurant business and the company wants to change that experience for its customers.

"We want to make sure that you leave happy and you're getting everything you want each time you come in to one of our locations."

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