Covid-19 has been too much for even the toughest of competitors when it comes to keeping a small business open; the odds have been stacked squarely against them. Add to that an eatery that specializes in live music 7 nights a week and one would assume that would be lights out. Not so for Pizzario of Hillsboro, Oregon. The well-loved wood-fired oven restaurant at 337 East Main Street in downtown Hillsboro, Oregon found a winning formula to stay open and honor the rigid pandemic rules.
In the beginning, the restaurant went to take out only and had to end all live music which is at the core of their fan base. Owner Mike Soto , founder & local entrepreneur, leaned on his customers and found a way to connect with them at a visceral level. They understood that Pizzario needed them to survive so they turned out. Over the first 3 or 4 months, we regularly saw stacks of boxes on their way out. The formula was simple and it worked. The regulars were safely getting food with masks on and able to find a way to break the grip of Covid’s isolation.
Soto and his terrific staff moved to place tables and umbrellas along the storefront and some diners began to sit and eat al fresco. Mike reported to us that his business was only down about 30%. Other local food venues were not nearly as successful with business down 70 to 80 percent by reports we were given. PIzzario weathered the initial storm. Pizzario staff were working long hours but making all the difference.
As good as the Pizza, fresh noodles, salads and desserts are the music that has brought so many folks in was still missing. With a little ingenuity and a change to acoustic only in May, the musicians came back. In that way, the music could be heard in the open air and a handful of locals could listen in. Only a few actually sat and ate. We stopped for pizza several times and listened to great solo acts from the car or just standing at times. That music rolling down the streets of an otherwise quiet downtown seemed to signal that things could be ok again and several groups brought folding chairs and sat across the street 30 feet apart.
As Oregon entered Phase 1 dining room service started inside and outside and the music continued. Small groups of diners began to meet and eat always spaced well apart. That pattern has continued all Summer and into this Fall successfully with no complaints. All and all Pizzario has been an island in the storm and a beacon of hope. I think it is fair to say that ownership did what they had to do to safely stay open and was a symbol of perseverance for the community; a community that is reeling still from all that 2020 has brought upon it.
Pizzario is serving nightly and the music is back several days a week; all outside on the patio. Check them out here- they have once again been named Best of Hillsboro. Follow their live music announcements here.