Reid and Christy Schwartz met in a pizzeria so it seemed kismet for them to have their own successful pizza shop one day. Unfortunately, it takes more than just fate to keep a business thriving. Hot Rock Pizza closed for good this week.
“Yes, I’m disappointed but life goes on,” Reid Schwartz said Thursday. “We definitely gave it our best shot.”
Despite Hot Rock’s successes since they opened in July of 2014, Reid Schwartz said that a number of factors contributed to its final demise. Primary among them was its location off Pioneer Way in the Harborside Village mall. Other restaurants who have attempted to thrive in that same space – such as Cameron’s Cafe and others – have similarly tried and failed.
“It was a difficult location,” Reid Schwartz said. “I thought we would overcome that and I was wrong.”
In addition, Hot Rock Pizza was sued earlier this year by The Rock Wood Fired Kitchen chain for brand infringement, a move that cost the Schwartz’ a “chunk of change” in legal fees and re-branding. Their wild success in the summertime lead to a huge tax bill in October and the sudden downturn of business in the fall was the the final straw.
It was largely the “lack of participation of our customers,” according to Christy Schwartz. That said, she said they were grateful for the customers who came “religiously” and supported them. The future of the Hot Rock Pizza food truck, the idea that sparked the whole thing, is still uncertain.
Despite ongoing complaints about making Pioneer Way a one-way street, the Schwartz’ said they don’t think that it was a contributing factor. The public’s perception of it, however, may be the issue.
“The problem about the one-way is people complaining about the one-way,” Reid Schwartz said. They added that they felt the city did a beautiful job with the project, creating additional parking and widening the sidewalks to encourage foot traffic. They said they both still support and believe in a successful historic downtown for Oak Harbor.
The silver lining in all this, the Schwartz’ said, was the camaraderie they felt with their employees, who either were family or became family. Schwartz’ son in law, Dustin Wagner, was the restaurant manager and daughter Jes served as human resources manager and head pizza maker.
“Our family grew,” Christy Schwartz said. “Our employees were such blessings to us. Those boys called me mom.”
The next phase in their lives includes taking some much needed time off and enjoying the birth of a grandchild in January.
“It’s probably going to be the most relaxing Christmas in years,” Christy Schwartz said.