The oven is hot, the hard cider is on tap, and family is in the house. When you walk through the door of HopTown Wood Fired Pizza you expect a great meal. But what is served up is so much more. The first thing that hits you is that aroma of delicious fresh-out-of-the-oven, rising-dough, melted-cheese yumminess. The next impression is that you feel at home. Because HopTown is all about family.
It’s more than the relatives who work the food trucks or behind the bar. More than the sisters who serve as interior consultants (and railing builders) and Chief Pizza Officers. More than HopDaddy pizza named after Lester “Daddy Hops” Roy, a long time Moxee farmer and the father of co-owner Lori Roy. More than the offering of Squirt soft drinks in homage to fellow owner Carrie Wright’s mom “Lil’ Squirt.” More than brothers setting up a hop yard near the patio. It’s the merging of different personalities and skills into a place where the country roots run deep and friendship is served with every pie.
When Carrie Wright and Lori Roy met six years ago, they knew they shared more than just a country girl background. The meeting of their minds has produced one of the Yakima Valley’s premier new eateries, named the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce 2017 Emerging Business of the Year, among other distinctions. Located at 2560 Donald-Wapato Road, just north of Interstate 82 exit 44, HopTown is nearing the first anniversary of its soft opening. The grand opening was last September and the popularity of the place has grown like wildfire. But the business actually began in 2014 with a mobile food truck.
“We knew we wanted to do a business together and tossed around many ideas,” according to Wright. They were both intrigued by the fact that many of the local craft beverage tasting rooms lacked a food option. A timely notice on Craigslist of a mobile food truck with a pizza oven steered the women down the HopTown trail. In a trial by fire, so to speak, they practiced creating pies in the backyard and took on a catering job for a large birthday party. With that bit of experience under their belts and three days’ notice, the pair agreed to fill in for a vacancy at 2014’s Fresh Hop Ale Festival.
“From there it’s history because calls started coming in,” said Roy. “I had to choose between going all in on a business or my job,” said the health and fitness teacher. Wright also was at a crossroads. The Oklahoma native had left her work as the art director of a Portland marketing/advertising agency to relocate to Yakima and open her own marketing business.
In June of 2015, the women took a leap of faith and HopTown purchased a second mobile food truck, signed a two-year contract with Hop Nation Brewing Company for the use of their kitchen and to operate the pizza truck at the brewery four days a week, ensuring the fledgling company a steady gig. And they quit their jobs.
“Our intention was always to have a brick and mortar store but we decided to use the trucks to learn the craft,” Roy explained. She also said that they have both been collecting antiques, art, and ideas for years and all of those efforts are now coming together with a “trendy, farm vibe” in the restaurant’s historic building. Begun as Donald Fruit and Mercantile and later becoming Piety Flats Winery, the pizza joint was remodeled to accommodate an authentic brick wood-fired oven purchased by Roy’s parents. The oven was initially lit by her mother, Emma. Another addition is a bar that features beverages from local wineries and breweries as well as their own creation: hard cider.
“I have always wanted to make cider,” said Wright. “With all the apples grown here and the desire for gluten-free drinks, it seemed a natural fit with the pizza.” The HopTown Seester Cider creations also stay true to the family theme. Wright and Roy each have two sisters and enjoy telling childhood tales about them. The first, Frisky Seester, is a delicious joining of apples, hops and figs. Every can bears the story of its namesake. Yakima’s Tieton Cider Works brews and cans the hard cider for HopTown. It is only available at the restaurant either on tap or by cans, growlers, or kegs. The next brew is currently in the works with ongoing taste tests. While the name is top secret until the uncapping, it’s a sure bet that there will be an entertaining tale behind it.
While the designing and renovating is basically complete on HopTown’s interior, the outside grounds will be undergoing more changes this spring and summer. A Sippin’ Silo will open near a second outdoor patio. Once the silo is moved from Roy’s property in the East Valley area, it will be fitted with windows where customers can be served near the outdoor stage. Roy said her five-year vision for the business is that it will be a “rustic country gathering place where the Upper and Lower Valleys can join together.”
At the rate HopTown is growing, Roy and Wright’s goals may happen sooner than planned! “In the first three years we made over 30,000 pizzas,” according to Wright. “We may do that many this upcoming year alone,” she added. The business has about 20 part-time employees and still does catering with the two mobile trucks. Their in-house menu is expanding with the addition of salads and hoppetizers. They plan to feature live music on summer weekends. One percent of all Squirt soda sales are donated to the Washington State Lung Association in honor of Lil’ Squirt, Velma Wright, who passed away. Likewise a portion of HopDaddy sales goes to the Washington Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of Lester Roy.
So, whether you are at HopTown on Tuesday for Family Nite when kids get to play chef at their own tables, or to enjoy the daily Loco/Local special, when that delicious aroma follows you out the door as you head home, you will likely take with you a slice of pie topped with a sprinkling of hops and the knowledge that you are now part of the HopTown family.