Nestled in Cathlamet, Washington is a small pizza restaurant. The Pizza Mill is the vision of sister owners Sara Fletcher and Ginger Schmitz, a restaurant serving quality food to a tight-knit community. There is a reason this rural pie shop has become one of the highest-rated restaurants in the towns of Cathlamet and Skamokawa.
Purpose Beyond Pizza
The Pizza Mill has been serving the rural county of Wahkiakum since its’ opening in August 2015. With roughly 4,000 people, there was an opportunity to build a community. “I want to be able to grow and support my family along with supporting our employees’ families. As well as giving our community a great place for food and conversation,” says Ginger Schmitz, owner, and kitchen manager.
Since then, this restaurant has become a staple in the community. “The impact I want our customers to feel in our shop is to feel welcome with great food,” shares Ginger. “I want them to have a great experience not only by eating our food but also by the customer service we provide. When customers walk in I want them to feel like it’s home.”
Persevering Through a Pandemic
Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the restaurant’s sales. “We have been very vigilant in trying to keep our staff and customers safe through it all,” Ginger noted. The strength of this small community was displayed in being able to keep restaurants like The Pizza Mill afloat during tough times. When summarizing the impact of the pandemic, Ginger noted, “Our sales did drop throughout the pandemic, but we have been fortunate to make it through. Not a lot of small restaurants have and for that, I am very grateful. I give credit to our great community and staff.”
However, according to Sara, they still had to go into a no-contact work style with very limited schedules to help balance the unknown. Even with community support, they still needed to find funding to persevere past the pandemic. Thankfully, The Pizza Mill owners were able to find the support to get the funding they needed to stay afloat.
“Business Impact NW has opened doors for us that I thought [were] impossible,” Sara said. “We both felt so comfortable and at ease having them on our side. During COVID, when we had no idea what was going to happen, there was a team that helped us through getting funding that we would not have survived without.”
Sara and Ginger received dedicated support from Business Impact NW. They were able to navigate PPP loans and state-level funding opportunities. With this, they found the confidence to persevere through the pandemic.
Building on Success
Loyal customers in this small tight-knit community continue to support The Pizza Mill. “We love to give a free pizza or soda or whatever, to very frequent customers here and there to show them how much we appreciate them,” Sara Fletcher, owner, and office manager said. As the only pizza business in town that is situated on SR4, Sara noted, “We hope to keep providing the best food and service for this tiny community and those that pass through on their way to the beach.”
In the future, both owners hope to see the business grow. Possibly, adding a second location. Being an entrepreneur has its difficulties and lessons. Ginger noted that it taught her that she is capable of much more than she imagined. She learned that with time, hard work, and dedication, you can achieve many things. “I have to give thanks to an amazing support system to help maintain our small business and to my amazing sister and business partner.” Ginger stated.
We hope to see The Pizza Mill flourish in the coming years and can’t wait to hear about their next location!
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