New owner comes forward to take charge of Pizza Factory

Veteran Charles Pearce said he hopes to re-open the Pizza Factory around the start of 2019
FILE: The front of the Pizza Factory in Winters. Photo by Matthew Keys

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former franchise owner renounced the business. In a phone interview with the Express last week, Pearce said he became interested in taking over the franchise after seeing an advertisement about the business opportunity in the newspaper. He said the corporate owners of the Pizza Factory offered to take 50 percent off the franchise fee. “I was going to open a whiskey distillery in town, and a brewery in town, and it was going to be an event venue, but in the last couple of years the spike in real estate costs have prevented me from moving forward with that,” Pearce said. But the Pizza Factory already has a building, leased to the business by building owner Linda Lorenzo, and all it needs is some improvement on the inside to get things up and running again.

The Pizza Factory unexpectedly shut down over the summer with little more than a notice in the window that it had closed due to an ongoing “construction” project. It appears instead that Gabriel Ibarra, the owner of Azul Real Estates who operated the Pizza Factory under a franchise agreement, abandoned the business, people familiar with the matter told the Express in September. (Speaking then through an associate, Ibarra declined to comment to the Express at the time.)

It wasn’t just the building Ibarra walked away from: The local restaurateur reportedly also left behind hundreds of dollars in unpaid bills to the City of Winters for water and sewer service and PG&E for electricity, Pearce said. The City of Winters agreed to waive $700 in charges for the water and sewer services, leaving Pearce to deal with PG&E in the meantime.

Pearce said that and other improvement projects will keep the Pizza Factory closed for just a little bit longer. He plans to remodel the inside — grinding down the floor, installing ADA-compliant countertops, setting up a new pizza oven — and is close to obtaining a license that will allow him to serve beer and wine inside the establishment. Over the next few weeks, Pearce said he’ll also be traveling to Fresno to train in the Pizza Factory’s corporate kitchen where he will learn about how to cook the food and operate the business. Before it closed, the Pizza Factory was one of two businesses in town to deliver pizzas to Winters residents; after it suspended operations, Round Table became the sole pizza delivery company in the city, something that helped boost business for that company. Pearce said he looks forward to bringing competition back to Winters. “It’s not overpriced, it’s good pizza,” Pearce said. “I like it better than Round Table, so I think it will be good.” Pearce said he hopes operating the Pizza Factory will bring in additional income for his household. The Pizza Factory will also help him with various philanthropic goals: He plans on donating a portion of the sales to a memorial fund set up in the name of his son, an Army soldier who was killed in a motorcycle crash in 2015. “A lot of people in town know my son also, Pfc. Holden Philbrook,” Pearce said. “The VFW, which I’m also a part of in town, has a scholarship fund and they do scholarships for Holden every year through Winters High School…I plan on donating proceeds from the restaurant to the tuition program in Holden’s name.” Pearce said he plans to hang an “Under New Ownership” banner at the Pizza Factory sometime within the next few weeks and hopes to open the restaurant in the first part of 2019. If everything goes well, he said he’s considering a second location in Esparto.]]>

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