Brick oven and mortar

Pop’s pizza has a new home

When Andrew Shepherd first started his brick-oven pizza business back in April 2012, he was always on the move. Now, he’s not hard to find.

For almost a year now, Shepherd has been hard at work at 2031 Forest Ave., preparing the space to transition his mobile food business to a bona fide restaurant. The long days and nights finally paid off earlier this month, when the brick-and-mortar version of Pop’s Pizza opened its doors near the Old Navy shopping center.

Aside from hand-tossed wood-fired pizza, Pop’s offers salads, sandwiches and gelato. Specialty pizzas range from the The Chickalo, which features buffalo ranch sauce, mozzarella, blue cheese, red onion and buffalo chicken, to the Chicken ‘n’ Waffle, with butter, mozzarella, fried chicken, waffles and syrup. Of course, there is the standard combination or veggie or you can make your own custom pizza from an expansive list of topping options.

Shepherd noted in a conversation last week that although the shift to a permanent location is a significant investment for the business, it is also a way to ensure more stability in revenues. Inclement weather stifles food truck businesses in the winter, with customers reluctant to battle the wet and cold for lunch or dinner. Now, at Pop’s, they’ll have a roof over their heads, and can catch the game with a beer, while their pizza bakes at 600 degrees a few feet away over almond wood. Shepherd gets the wood locally, from a landscape business that sources it from a green waste facility.

Pop’s plans to be open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the mobile trailer and truck still out for special events and catering, though the regular visits to Spike’s Bottle Shop on East First Avenue will cease. The business has grown from two staff members to 14 and Shepherd credits his family and team members for helping make the jump into permanency.

Pop’s is one of a few mobile food businesses in Chico to move to a stable home over the last few years. Cupcake Crusader, one of my guiltiest pleasures (the Cookies and Cream cupcake, especially), moved out of its food truck and into an East Avenue location (with a drive thru!) in 2012 and Sweet Cottage expanded to a downtown Chico location on Broadway earlier this year.

Pop’s isn’t the only pizzeria opening its doors in Chico, either. Across town, on Mangrove Avenue, preparations are still under way for a Pizza Hut location. I had to go my entire college career without stuffed-crust pizza delivered to my front door because the nearest Pizza Hut was in Oroville, but incoming Chico State students won’t have to endure the same tragedy. The signs still say “Coming Soon” and I’ll keep you posted if I hear any news on an opening date.