"We never once thought of doing what everybody else is doing"

Kimberly Shingledecker started Pies & Pints along with partner David Bailey in Fayetteville, WV in 2003 in the basement of a house. By 2005 they had two-hour waits and needed to buy a building with more space. The growth hasn’t slowed down much since, and today they have nine locations. When I interviewed her for our podcast, Kimberly talked about consistency being critical, never closing earlier than the time posted on your door, the challenge of educating your market – and your staff – when you are doing something new, the importance of finding a way to say “yes” to customers, being kid-friendly, and the most important question to ask people interviewing for jobs.

Here is an exchange that stood out to me…

“In 2003 in Fayetteville, a rural town in West Virginia, our pizza was different than the pizza they were used to. In other parts of the country this was nothing new; everybody was doing high quality stuff back then. We put our sauce on top; we don’t put it on the bottom. And our thought on that is that cheese bakes into the crust and the sauce doesn’t make it all soggy. We use fresh herbs instead of dried and we are really letting people experience what they never thought was possible with pizza. Putting grapes on a pizza; people had never heard of that. All of that stuff made us stand out, made us be different. It started a conversation. People said, ‘Oh, you got to try this pizza place; they put grapes on the pizza. I know it’s crazy but, you’re going to love it.’ We tried to raise the bar on everything we did.

We really push the envelope on our toppings. We had this Cuban pork sandwich with pulled pork in Colorado somewhere, and we thought, ‘This would be awesome on a pizza.’ And that’s one of my favorite pizzas. We make our own pork butts in house. And then the pizza – pork, pineapple, jalapenos, cilantro – it’s just full of flavor. We finish it with crème fraiche and it’s really good. All of that stuff made us stand out. And another thing – people said you’re never going to be able to charge twenty dollars for a pizza in West Virginia. But price was not an issue; it really wasn’t.

I learned that you can educate people. Just sticking to your plan and knowing as long as you see a couple more people every time and you have people that tell you they really appreciate what you’re doing. We never thought, ‘Oh, let’s just cave in and do regular pizza.’ We never once thought about cutting corners and doing what everybody else was doing. Not one time. If anything, we try to go in the opposite direction.”

If you like hearing from successful restaurant owners like Kimberly, you might like our book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked. It’s full of interviews with 20 owners. We’re working on our next book now.