Eat Local Pizza

Eat Local Pizza Focuses on Giving During COVID-19

Story by Nancy Saunders

Eat Local Pizza owner and CEO Jim Stadey is passionate about community and giving back—values that couldn’t be more evident in the way he runs his business. In March 2020, Eat Local began offering free pizzas to those in need, and has continued to offer this service every day. “Anyone who needs help or is having a hard time, they can just have pizza for free,” shares Stadey. Once COVID-19 hit Thunder Bay, Eat Local set up medical and dental benefits for their full-time staff, and had doctors on call to help provide testing. They implemented a variety of safety procedures, including a four-tiered system to best address the various phases of a changing reality while continuing to maintain service, assist the community and keep their staff, customers and others safe. Says Stadey, “We really doubled down on the fact that we are a family.” The Eat Local Pizza family consists of around 25 employees.

Eat Local introduced frozen pizzas during COVID-19, something that Stadey says has worked very well. Renovations to make an eat-in dining room were cancelled at the beginning of the pandemic, as were some other expansion plans. “It was definitely unfortunate to have to stop a lot of projects that we were looking forward to, but we’ve all gone through it safely so far. That was our main goal, the first thing we put down on paper, that we wanted to make sure that everyone and their families got through safely. So far so good. We aren’t as worried about profit this year as we are about making sure that everyone is safe, and we’ll figure it out on the other side.” Eat Local Pizza realized early during the pandemic that they were not going to be able to continue expanding outward in the same way they had been, so quickly shifted focus inward to logistics projects. “Everything that we can invest in adds resilience. We’ve been working really hard to adapt to the changes proactively, so they wouldn’t be able to impact us as much.”

The majority of Eat Local Pizza’s advertising is done through social media, and they have had a great deal of success with that approach. Stadey shares that they really enjoy the feedback they receive. “It allows for a two-way communication with customers. It allows us to pivot very quickly to their needs and interests and concerns, and we love that.”

“It is all about brand,” says Stadey. “It will be the same post-COVID: how transparent you are, how you engage with your community. Whether it’s through video or through posting or through pictures, social media allows people to really understand where you are. It makes communication feel genuine. It allows you to translate what your brand is and what it means to you, and it allows your community to see that, and for them to support you. It’s really important.”

With the Digital Main Street grant, Stadey looks forward to providing new content to their followers, and sharing unique and personal glimpses of the business and staff. Eat Local Pizza has hired Torin Gunnel Media, a local videographer who is working with the team to create in-house video content that will showcase the business in new ways. “Now that we have in-house video production, it’s going to help people see a more personalized view of what we’re going through as we navigate COVID, and what that looks like with our products and services. The DMS grant is really useful as it is helping take some content creation off our plate, so that we can dial down on some of the business processes that we have to focus on,” says Stadey.

“Eat Local has been around for ten years. We try to make really great pizzas, and be part of the community. This year has been really challenging and we have had to pivot a lot. But we have found that with the support of our community, we have been able to carry on and continue growing.” – Jim Stadey 

Check out Eat Local Pizza’s incredible COVID-19 response plan here!