Opening a restaurant during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic can be risky, but the owners of Spaced Out Pizzeria are up for the challenge.
Co-owners Aaron Ringel and Gary Garner opened their pizzeria on Sept. 10 at 351 Whitney Road in a building formerly occupied by Quincy’s Restaurant.
Before the opening, employees were trained on how to keep all areas clean and sanitized. They also wear masks and masks are provided for customers if needed.
“We all wear masks and have masks on the counter for customers and sanitation stations are available,” Garner said. “Everything is wiped down and the restaurant is kept clean.”
In addition, Garner said the restaurant is taking other measures.
“I have several hand washing sinks around the restaurant for employees to wash their hands,” Garner said. “I always order gloves every week even if we don’t need them just to have them and we wipe everything down not only for food safety but for sanitation. We use a peroxide base cleaner which kills COVID and also Ecolab and Santos (cleaning labs) come once a month to clean.”
Finding employees and shortages in food supplies were other challenges they faced during the pandemic.
“The labor market is a little bit down,” Ringel said. “It’s hard to find good people right now. We have about 15 people who work here.”
Ringel also said supply chains were disrupted when COVID started and they still haven’t recovered.
“The food supply chain for restaurants and grocery stores are two separate things,” he said. “So there are the same shortages and wild price fluctuations you saw in groceries throughout COVID you are seeing in the restaurant side of the supply chain as well. There are a lot of challenges and people are still scared too.”
Plans for the restaurant started before the pandemic and the owners spent last year getting the building ready. Years ago the building was a Quincy’s Restaurant and then a seafood restaurant. The property remained vacant for years before Ringel and Garner purchased it.
“Gary and I took an abandoned building that was a blight on this neighborhood. We came in where there had not been no real investment or effort put in a long time to make things better out here in Whitney Heights. We fixed this place up and got a business running in it and created more than a dozen jobs,” Ringel said.
The restaurant’s menu includes appetizers, wings. salads, and pizza. The appetizers include a pepperoni roll, pretzels with beer cheese, fried jalapenos, and fried pickles.
Garner said customers who are a bit adventurous can test their mettle with the restaurant’s hot wing challenge. Wing flavors include space rub, hot, garlic parmesan, barbecue, x-hot, and bee sting.
Pizzas on the menu include the “Area 51” with pickles, alfredo sauce and bacon. The “Roswell” pizza features ground beef, taco seasoning, lettuce, tomatoes, queso, and pico de gallo.
“We make all the dough and sauce from scratch,” Garner said.
The extraterrestrial theme comes from the owners’ love of the old “X Files” television show. The restaurant’s décor includes an alien statue mounted into the bar with lights. It’s meant to be a conversation starter for guests.
“We wanted it to have a sci-fi twist,” Garner said.
Restaurant hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and from 11 a. m. to 9 p.m., on Sunday.
The owners soon will add a delivery service and offer live music on the weekends. Trivia night is held during the week and guests can enjoy playing with a pinball machine or tasting any of the 33 craft beers on tap.
Garner anticipates hiring more employees at the Spartanburg location and may eventually open new pizza restaurants in Rock Hill or Asheville, North Carolina. But for now, he’s focusing on making the new location a top priority.
“Seeing people return and having regular customers is exciting,” Garner said. “It makes it all worth it.”
For more information about Spaced Out Pizzeria, visit spacedoutpizzeria.com.