Tommy’s Pizza Joint replaces Pier 49
To transform Pier 49 Pizza into Tommy’s Pizza Joint in only 12 hours took some guts and hard work.
"I went into meltdown," said Dawn Wolfe, general manager of Tommy’s Pizza Joint. "One day we’re Pier 49 and the next day we weren’t."
Tommy Kirchhoff, the publisher of Wild Utah and entrepreneur, bought the option to the franchise earlier this summer and had dreams of turning it into his own pizza parlor.
"I’ve always wanted to own my own pizza place since I was a kid," Kirchhoff said.
Kirchhoff says all small towns have a signature pizza place and Park City needed one.
"You can go through a Podunk town in Iowa and there’s ‘the pizza place,’" Kirchhoff said. "I felt like this town doesn’t have one."
Kirchhoff ran Pier 49, located on Snowcreek Drive by The Market and the new state Liqour store, in December through January and couldn’t come to an agreement with Pier 49 to buy out the store. Under counsel from his lawyer he "dropped everything in 12 hours."
"We were able to de-franchise Pier 49," Kirchhoff said.
Kirchhoff says franchises alienate visitors who come to Park City for an authentic mountain experience. He mentioned other unique restaurants in Park City such as Blind Dog, Grappas, and El Chubasco that are unique.
"People don’t come to Park City to go to Pier 49," he said.
Overnight, Kirchhoff and Wolfe labored to take down signs and develop new menus and pizza ingredients because they couldn’t use any of Pier 49’s products.
"We grabbed all our kids and put our brains together," Wolfe said. "We wanted a sauce that was thicker and zestier, and we came up with a new recipe."
Wolfe says there was a lot of experience in the prior staff and they were able to come to an agreement on what they thought would be a better product.
The next day, the only sign on front of the building was "Pizza." Because of the change, he was worried the Sundance crowd wouldn’t stop by.
"I was nervous in the morning," Kirchhoff said. "From 11 to noon, nobody was here. It was lunch time, and nobody was in here."
At 12:15 p.m., his worries subsided.
"There was a line out the door," Kirchhoff said.
He envisions more busy days to come.
"Traffic here has quadrupled since the liquor store came here. It’s always going to be busy," Kirchhoff said.
Tommy’s Pizza Joint has made some drastic changes.
"We’ve cleaned house," Kirchhoff said. "We liked all the international flags, so we left those. Other than that, we’ve redone almost everything. We needed to wipe the slate clean."
Kirchhoff was most concerned about the look and ambiance of the restaurant.
"The first thing we had to do was get rid of all that kitschy San Francisco décor, like the ropes and pylons," Kirchhoff said. "You’re not going to come and dock your boat here."
He hired local artist Krista Eddy to replace the old San Francisco mural with chalkboard paint and created a new logo and wall menu. Soon, they will also include animal mascots and T-shirts for sale.
"By the time Krista finished the menu, we were in love with her work. We had just redone the disgusting, old bathrooms, so we decided to turn her loose in there as well," Kirchhoff said.
Eddy painted a Hawaiian sunset mural in the women’s bathroom and an alpine lake mural in the men’s room "with a big tree trunk next to the toilet; we thought that was appropriate," Kirchhoff said laughing.
The dining area offers in-house entertainment with multiple TVs and satellite dish receivers. Kirchhoff hopes the restaurant will become a fun, hangout place for Parkites.
"People can come in and request a sporting event, eat a slice of pizza while they watch a Warren Miller movie. We love having people hang in for the big game or veg-out watching a surf movie or Fuel TV."
"We want this to be a funky, fun locals place like Joe’s Crabshack," Wolfe said.
Wolfe and Kirchhoff also revamped the menu to focus on individuality instead of being bound by a franchise.
"We can evolve now, with Pier 49 we couldn’t do it," Wolfe said.
Tommy’s Pizza will include more toppings and people can "create a pizza uniquely their own."
"Pizza is a comfort food, people know what they want usually before they come in here," Kirchhoff said.
"We have the specialty pizzas, but we don’t want people to feel uncomfortable ordering a pepperoni," Wolf said.
Kirchhoff said the pizza dough utilizes Japanese technology that structures water molecules so the dough doesn’t grow as many bubbles and has a smoother texture. Tommy’s also adds probiotics to the dough mix.
"Our pizza dough is pretty far out there," Kirchhoff said.
Probiotics are dietary supplements containing potentially beneficial bacteria.
"No one will stand up and say that pizza is health food, but it can be alternatively healthy," Kirchhoff said. "When you take antibiotics for sickness or infection, you destroy a lot of the beneficial bacteria in your body. It might seem weird to help replace them by eating pizza, but it’s something we feel good about."
The pizza is also made with butter instead of margarine, which Kirchhoff says, eliminates trans-fats while tasting better.
Kirchhoff and Wolfe hope Tommy’s will become a destination eatery in Park City.
"My goal is for two guys in Germany that are coming to ski in Park City, that one guy says, ‘You have to go to Tommy’s,’" Wolfe said. "We want to be one of those places."
Tommy’s Pizza Joint is located at 1300 Snowcreek Drive by The Market and the new liquor store. For more information, call 655-8665 or log on to http://www.pizzajoint.us.
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Buses, trains and gondolas doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but they make up the transit alternatives for the mountain transportation system the Central Wasatch Commission is trying to create, mostly in the Cottonwood canyons.