FLAGSTAFF, AZ — For our latest "We're Open, Arizona" highlight, we're headed up north to Flagstaff, Arizona, home of the Northern Arizona University lumberjacks, where a local pizza joint is hoping to drum up business with a way that supports his employees and also those on the frontlines fighting the COVID-19 pandemic firsthand.
Steven Grubart opened The Pizza Patio, a small pizza joint with a massive menu, in 2017 in downtown Flagstaff. It is located near the Amtrak train depot in the heart of downtown Flagstaff and within walking distance of NAU's campus.
On a typical Friday or Saturday night, the pizzeria would normally be busy with students and people eating pizza or drinking beer, but now, like so many restaurants trying to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the dining room is empty and sales are down, by more than 50% during the week and 75%-80% on weekends.
"Hectic beyond all realms of possibility," said Grubart, when asked how he would describe the last few weeks. "It’s just been trying to keep our employees and customers safe has of course been our No. 1 issue. But we’ve also seen a considerable drop off in sales as well too, because customers are no longer able to dine within our restaurants."
Local proclamations and a state-wide executive order forced bars, movie theaters, and restaurant dining rooms to close, but allowed restaurants to stay open for carry-out, pick-up, and delivery.
NAU, which is in The Pizza Patio's backyard, moved its courses online. All efforts to help slow the spread of the virus.
He fully understands why, but he is thinking of his employees, ensuring he stays in business for them to earn a paycheck.
"This is the best crew I’ve ever had. It’s just a bad feeling and I’m doing my best to keep all of them employed and getting money to them. And, up until now, we’ve done a pretty good job with that," he said.
Like so many other businesses, it's tough right now and business models have to change.
The Pizza Patio is open for business. The dining room may be closed, but the pick-up window is open. He has also partnered with LoDel, a food delivery service that operates in Flagstaff. They also work with DoorDash, GrubHub, and Postmates.
"We have the largest menu for pizza in the entire world. It’s insane," he said. Looking at the menu online, there are a lot of options, though, this reporter certainly has not viewed every restaurant menu -- not even close -- in Arizona, let alone the world. They have traditional pizzas, but also vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based pizzas, cheeses, meats, and other ingredients.
Grubart also wants to help out those on the frontlines with a free meal.
"We just felt like what could we do, what can we do to help in our town that we know and love? That’s when we decided to start giving away free pizzas to everybody [first responders]," he said. That includes emergency medical technicians (EMTs), doctors, nurses, hospital staff, firefighters, police officers, and paramedics.
"We’re asking people to donate a pizza so that we can match their donations as well or to purchase a pizza and then we give a free pizza."
For every 12-inch pizza purchased, The Pizza Patio will donate a pizza to a first responder, he said. Orders can be made via their website, https://thepizzapatio.com, by calling them, or stopping by.
Those first responders who find themselves hungry and in the area, can stop by on one of the following days for a free pizza from 5 p.m. - 9 p.m., just make sure to have your work ID with you:
Mondays: Hospital Personnel
Tuesdays: Police & Firefighters
Wednesdays: Doctors & Nurses
Thursdays: Paramedics & EMTs
While the grassroots effort came together quickly this week, Grubart said he plans to keep the initiative up as long as supplies and resources keep up.
"It's our corner of the world and that’s where we’re trying to help from," he said.
IF YOU GO:
The Pizza Parlor
109 E Phoenix Ave, Flagstaff, AZ 86001
We're Open, Arizona: We know this is a tough time for a lot of people in our community, including local restaurants and businesses. As local spots continue to serve takeout, look for ways to safely do business, and give back to our community, we want to share their stories. Visit abc15.com/open or email us at OpenInAZ@abc15.com.