History in the Baking: New pizza place to open in historic mill office
Published 12:18 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Steve Gill and Mike Martins’ dream of owning a pizza shop in the historic John Havens Moss Mill office came true almost by accident.
Business partners and best friends, Gill and Martin did not want to open a pizza shop by the time both moved from Cary to Washington, Gill said; however, when they spotted the historic mill office, a new dream of opening a pizza shop in the 305 sq. ft. brick building began to unfold.
“Originally we didn’t want to have another pizza shop. We just wanted to move down here and I wasn’t even originally going to move down here, but we would always come to the waterfront and we were like, ‘we’re never going to have another pizza shop, but if we did, if we could somehow get that little building right there,’” Gill said pointing at what will be Havens Mill Pizza Co. (located on West Main Street next to Pitt Street Brewing Company-On the Pamlico).
“It was almost by accident,” Martin said about leasing the building. They submitted a post in March to the Friends of Downtown Washington Facebook group asking if people knew about available leases in town, because they were considering opening another pizza shop.
The post gained the attention of many people, 214 likes and 87 comments, including that of Slayton Hazard-Daniel who now leases the building to Martin and Gill.
By serendipity, Hazard-Daniel showed them the historic mill office as a prospective site – the very one they dreamed about leasing one day.
Gill and Martin are in the permitting process, right now. They hope to transform the building then open in about three months. They plan to build an addition on the back, and add more outdoor seating, they shared.
One benefit of opening Havens Mill Pizza Co. in a small building is that Gill and Martin are anticipated to be the only employees. They will bake pizzas then serve them up from a window. This eliminates staffing issues which they ran into after the COVID pandemic, they said.
When they open, they will serve New York style pizza by the slice and by the pie. They will have classic flavors, but they are known for their specialty topping combinations. They plan to add a pizza topped with crab as a nod to Washington’s popular motif. They also plan to bring in best selling recipes from their previous pizza shop like pizza fuzed with chicken tikka masala and a sweet and spicy pizza.
How much dough will the pizzas cost customers? Gill and Martin haven’t set prices, but they promise it won’t be as expensive as Cary, North Carolina where they previously had a pizza shop.
“We’re going to match pricing to the demographic,” Martin said. “It’ll match other [local] price points…No Cary prices.”
Gill added, “we’re not about skinning someone just to get some food. We really only care about being able to say we make the best pizza.”
For now, they plan to be open five days a week including Sundays and Mondays. Hours of operation have not been determined, but their plan is to match Pitt Street Brewing Company – On the Pamlico’s hours and include lunchtime hours when the brewery is closed.
Gill and Martin previously owned Pizzeria Veritas in Cary, for more than four years. (They are no longer affiliated with the business.) For three of those years, Martin commuted to Cary from Washington, because his wife wanted to move back to her hometown from Florida.
“After living in the Triangle for so long, it’s just a reprieve from the hustle and bustle,” Martin said, continuing to describe Washington as “calm and peaceful” and the people here are “more personable.”
Gill and his wife would visit often and preferred Washington to Cary, because he said Washington is a much happier place to live than in the Triangle.
Now, Gill and Martin are happy to be part of downtown Washington’s revitalization.
“A location like this that is small, in this beautiful setting, where we can help lend to the revitalization of the downtown down here it was almost like a no-brainer,” Gill said.
He continued to share Havens Mill Pizza Co.’s goal on top of making pizzas. “We’re real excited and we want to contribute to downtown Washington in more than running a business and making a profit. We want to make this a place where people want to come to, be part of it and build it up and be on the side of growth for Washington.”