Islanders Meaghan Sohl and Natalie Harkins responded with a quick “no” when asked if they would have ever imagined themselves owners of a pizzeria, but that is what they are now — and happily so — after buying John Dough’s Pizza earlier this month.
Sohl and Harkins, who changed the businesses’ name to Vashon Pizza, are also committed to smoothing some of the rougher edges of the restaurant’s reputation. Both mothers and professionals, the two women say at least one of them will always be there to ensure that each pizza is made well and that the atmosphere is welcoming.
“We will have consistently good pizza and service. You can’t go wrong with that,” Harkins said.
Harkins’ cousin Doug Sudduth opened the restaurant in the home of The Monkey Tree a few years back, and for a long time, business was good. More recently, though, the business had hit a rough patch, including during a time last fall when it was under different ownership.
The two women, who are long-time friends, said they started to help out at John Dough’s last winter after Sudduth resumed ownership. Harkins was happy to step in and assist, she said. Sudduth has had four different pizza places on Vashon over the years, and she has worked at each one so knew the ropes. Sohl stepped in too, helping to deliver, and the two women — essentially volunteering their time — loved it. But they did not know the business was for sale, they said.
“We found out Doug was selling it because some gal came in and was going to observe because she was thinking about buying it,” Sohl said. “We thought, ‘Oh, no.’ We weren’t very cooperative.”
In two weeks’ time, the women pooled their resources and bought the business. As mothers, they hope it will provide them with additional money and be a place for their kids to work, too, where they will be supervised while earning their own money, Harkins said.
In addition to tending to their new business, both women have full-time jobs. Harkins drives the Access van, and Sohl is the business manager at Amiad & Associates. She has a background in business and earned her degree a year and half ago. She will focus on the business end of the restaurant, but what she really enjoys, she said, is delivering.
“My whole thing for wanting to work here was to drive around with good-smelling pizza and deliver people love. Everyone is so happy when you get there, and they pay you. I love it. It’s awesome,” she said.
The menu at Vashon Pizza is the same as it was under Sudduth’s ownership, they said, including Sudduth’s special crust recipe they make fresh daily, but they will make some changes.
“We have a lot of fans of the pizza itself, just not of the reputation of the business,” Harkins said, noting that the biggest changes will be careful preparation of each pizza and a different environment in and around the business so that all people feel comfortable stopping by.
The women have been dreaming, too, about what to add to the menu. They’ve experimented with pizza fries, a taco pizza and a cheese stuffed crust.
“I’m working on that one,” Harkins said with a gleam in her eye.
The two also hope to offer pizza by the slice in the future.
With five kids between them, ranging from 9 to almost 19 — all of whom were or are in the Vashon public schools — the two women have a sense of wanting to give back, they said, and offer 10 percent off orders for people who work for the school district.
Sohl and Harkins bought the pizzeria on April 5. Business has been slow, they said, but each weekend they have been open, it’s been busier than the weekend before.
For both of them, the rewards come from the customers.
“I think it’s really fun when people come in here and just enjoy the food,” Harkins said.
“Or they call and tell us it was great pizza,” Sohl added.