Pickup’s Pizza makes some lemonade out of a whole crop of lemons
Opening Edwards site in the middle of COVID-19 was just one setback for plucky local business
- To order online, visit pickupspizza.com and deli ordering is coming soon at belmontdeli.com. The deli is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and Pickup's Pizza Company in Edwards is open from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The business phone number is 970-926-1796. Pickup's Pizza in Eagle is open seven days a week from 4 to 9 p.m. and the phone number is 970-328-3388.
EDWARDS — Plainly, timing was not on Oliver and Shannon Philpott’s side when they expanded their Pickup’s Pizza Co. operation to the Edwards area this spring.
Just as they were finalizing their expansion plan, COVID-19 started its advance across the globe. The launch date for Pickup’s Pizza in Edwards was Friday, March 13. But by Monday, March 16, Pickup’s was among the thousands of Colorado eateries forced to rethink operations when an executive order closing all restaurant dining rooms was announced.
“We called it the COVID crash,” said Shannon. After years of planning and months of work, the new Pickup’s Pizza dining room adjoining Belmont Deli was shuttered. It was a tough blow.
“We are not trying to throw a pity party, though,” she said. “I know there are restaurants out there in worse shape than we are.”
How is Pickup’s weathering the worst possible environment imaginable for a restaurant opening? By doubling down on the restaurant gamble.
“We don’t have any big partners or big backers. It’s just us,” Oliver said. “Closing would end us anyway. It was either close and we would lose everything or go all in.”
While the dining and bar area at the new Pickup’s Pizza location are closed, customers can grab a pizza from the Belmont Deli takeout counter. The Philpotts have operated the Belmont for months and their new pizza space is located in the adjacent unit at the Edwards Village Center.
The couple acquired the deli last year after months of searching for an Edwards location. They opened the original Pickup’s Pizza site in 2015.
“We saw immediate success, and the pizza shop in Eagle continues to be successful through this time,” Oliver said.
He said the search for an Edwards Pickup’s location began in 2017.
“That’s why people have been hearing about it for so long,” Oliver said.
When they found the Belmont Deli site, the Philpotts worked up a business plan that included maintaining the deli operation and expanding it to include pizza and a full bar.
“Our original plan was to open Pickup’s Pizza in the summer of 2019 but that proved to be a bit ambitious,” Oliver said.
But the couple kept plugging away and had all the pieces in place to launch Pickup’s in March 2020.
A little help, a lot of work
After their Friday night opening and the restaurant dining room closure order that came close on its heels, the Philpotts took exactly one day off.
“We closed that Monday to regroup,” Oliver said.
Shannon actually works another full-time job, so she is complying with the state stay-at-home order. As the couple looked over their options and their bills, they concluded they would move forward with their pizza plan. They made the commitment to keep their 12 workers employed and started coming up with options.
“We are employers, and we have a big commitment to our people,” Shannon said.
“We have invested in training people for a month before we thought we would have to lay them off. That decision just didn’t make sense to us,” Oliver said.
The Philpotts have applied for small business stimulus assistance, and they are hopeful that they will get some operating cash to help them through the COVID-19 crisis.
“But right now, we are still paying for everything. Nobody has given us any cash yet,” Oliver said. To keep his businesses afloat, he has sold his truck and some personal possessions.
But the Philpotts have received some vital help from local sources. Their landlords — Celena Olen of A Good Sport Co. in Eagle and Mike Rindone of Bottle & Cork in Edwards — have given Pickup’s rent relief.
“That was the biggest help we could have had,” said Oliver.
Support from the downvalley community has been their other saving grace. People have been purchasing pizza and more during the past month. For example, Shannon noted that she did a social media announcement that Pickup’s was offering 20% off gift cards and locals jumped at the special.
“The first day I put up the gift card deal, we earned the same amount as a night’s pizza sales,” she said.
During this rough period, the Philpotts expressed their deep appreciation for their customers.
“There is a lot of kindness out there. When things are dark, this community helps us,” Shannon said.
The Philpotts have seen more than their share of dark days during the past month.
“It’s been a rollercoaster Monday through Friday. Is the cheese going to show up? Are all our people feeling well?” Shannon said. “Luckily, all of our crew has been healthy through all of this.”
“The whole supply chain for restaurants is being effected,” Oliver said. “We couldn’t get basil for two weeks, and we were driving to Denver for cheese.”
“That just added another assignment to the tasks for the day — to see if everything we ordered showed up and then figuring out how to deal with it,” he said. “I am in the grocery store just about every day.”
Add to that, there’s the regular challenge of finding items that everyone is searching for — hand sanitizer, face masks and thermometers.
“But anything that we can’t find, our customers have brought to us,” said Shannon.
The Philpotts are also looking for people. “We are hiring right now. I need four new employees,” said Oliver.
As Pickup’s in Edwards marks its one-month anniversary, the Philpotts note it’s a month they will never forget.
“It sometimes feels like an episode of Bob’s Burgers,” said Oliver, referencing the popular animated series where the family restaurant displays a “Grand Opening” banner and is then beset by a series of mishaps. To illustrate his point, Oliver noted the Pickup’s opening night followed by the COVID-19 dining room closure was just the first setback.
On the day when Belmont Deli debuted its takeout counter, a foot of snow fell, making it difficult to approach the front door. This week, construction commenced on a Colorado Department of Transportation project on U.S. Highway 6 that closed the main entrance to the Belmont Deli storefront.
“But all this just makes us be even more thankful for our customers. We are thankful for all we have,” Oliver said.