Hot Rock Pizza in Oak Harbor closes for good

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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.”

Reid ChristyDespite 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 HobbitThe 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.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Perhaps this one-way traffic and widening of the sidewalks promotes more foot traffic, but I must admit every time I drive thru town I’m concentrating on looking for back up lights from parked cars trying to get out, and I’m looking one way, then shifting to the other side of the street for more parked cars backing out. Just an FYI….

  2. Darn it……I have a gift certificate for there! Would have been nice if we knew they were closing so we could have used it!

  3. I have 3 points to make here:

    The first is that I prefer a thin crust pizza .. that’s easy to chew and less calories. I’m sure that quite a lot of the older population would agree with me on that.

    The second is that I hated your salads .. where was the red or green-leaf lettuce? The salad that I was served was bitter tasting. My monthly klatch gals and I met there one time right after you opened. I never went back because there was nothing for me on the menu.

    The third thing? I happen to agree with the first comment here: the one way street really ticked-me-off because there was no reason for it to begin with. I refuse to drive there now because of the worry of being hit by a vehicle backing out of their parking space. It is just too nerve-wracking.

    That sort of parking works in large lots, but not on narrow streets. In my estimation, the city has ruined business for anyone that tries to ‘make it’ on that street. What a shame because it was so nice for walking from shop to shop, having a place to stop for coffee or a meal, etc.

    The lot behind the mall is a great idea .. I mostly parked there anyway. Then I came thru the mall on my way to wherever. If the restaurant was to my liking, I almost always had a meal there after shopping. The problem was that the shops were closing right and left while the street was being changed-over. Later I heard talk that the rents were too high for small businesses. Many moved elsewhere.

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