Community support, recycled items from the old general store and a heaping portion of help from neighbours are some of the ingredients rolled into a new pizza restaurant in Shirley.
Stoked Wood Fired Pizza, which opened Sept. 1, came to be in part because the volunteer fire chief thought it would do well, said owner Meagan Symington.
She and her partner, Oliver Woods, had recently completed their master’s in environmental development and science in Nova Scotia, and were looking for a change from Halifax.
“Oliver was at a farmers market and saw someone with a portable pizza oven,” explained Symington, who was originally from Vancouver Island.
“We were looking for a change from Halifax, and saw the potential for doing something like that. My dad had a pizzeria when he was in his early 20s and Oliver and I made pizza for friends regularly with good response. We talked about coming back to Vancouver Island and started daydreaming about a little operation we could take to farmers markets.”
The couple began “scouring” Vancouver Island for a place to set up a business.
“We had camped and hiked in Shirley and Jordan River and fell in love with the area, so we started looking at locations with my dad.” she said. That led to a chance encounter with Shirley volunteer Fire Chief Marty Gilbertson, who owns Foggy Mountain Forge. “He told us that’s it a great community, the people are super welcoming and a pizza place would do well.”
They bought the property where the old general store was located and set about turning it into a restaurant. It needed a lot of work. “There was a lot of TLC involved,” said her father Jim Symington.
Gilbertson lent them a backhoe to get the property ready, and stopped by with friends to help install the wood-fired oven, which was imported from California. Gilbertson also assisted with the ironwork and provided a lot of guidance, Meagan said.
“We were overwhelmed by by the amount of people that jumped in to help,” she noted. “There’s too many to list.”
They incorporated wood from the old general store wherever they could and put an emphasis on utilizing recycled items. “We even used some of the fence from the house I grew up in,” Meagan said.
Ornate ironwork and a variety of colours and grains lend a rustic but modern charm to the finished product. Part of the interior also serves as a general store to provide a nearby option for the locals to purchase a few items.
“We’re putting a focus on local products and choosing products that respect the environment,” Meagan said. “We get a lot of our produce from Living the Dream, an organic farm across the street. We want to be a business that engages the local community around us. As the business grows and we get to know the locals, we’ll look for ways to give back to the community.”
“It’s a tight-knit community,” Woods said. “All of the local businesses go out of their way to support each other.”
Business has been better than expected so far, Jim said. “We have people making the journey from Sooke for our pizza,” Jim noted. “That’s a very positive sign.”
Calgary resident Melissa Pasutto, who visits her son in Jordan River regularly, has already become a regular customer. “These guys have a slice of heaven,” she said while waiting for three pies. “The business is well-needed in this area.”