LINCOLNTON – With a knack for constructing wood-fired brick ovens, but no prior experience in the restaurant business, Brian and Jane Rollins took a leap of faith when they opened the doors to GoodWood Pizzeria downtown earlier this year.
The story of how GoodWood Pizzeria came to be starts with a family vacation in 1997 to Tahiti, where Brian Rollins first laid eyes on a brick oven.
“I saw a pizza in that brick oven down there in Tahiti, and when I saw it baking in that fire in the brick oven, it just grabbed me,” he said. “As soon as I saw it I decided that when I got back home I’d try to build one. Jane, my loving wife, bought me a book on how to build a brick oven, and I built my first brick oven in my backyard. Then a friend of mine wanted one built, so I built him one, and then somebody else wanted one built, and I built them one.”
It took Brian two years to construct his first brick oven after they returned. The demand for Rollins’ brick ovens hasn’t waned since, and he’s now built 52 of them for clients from Alaska to Vermont since that fateful trip.
While Brian and Jane Rollins had never operated a brick-and-mortar restaurant prior to opening GoodWood, Brian did construct a mobile brick oven that he often took to festivals and used to cater parties.
“I was catering parties, and in the catering business most of your work is done on the weekends and at night,” he said. “I was having a hard time finding help that was willing to work my hours on Friday and Saturday nights, and so I told Jane that I was going to quit catering because I couldn’t find any help. Jane didn’t like that idea, and she decided to quit her job instead so that we could open a restaurant.”
Shortly thereafter, Brian noticed a building for sale on North Aspen Street in the heart of downtown Lincolnton, and he jumped at the opportunity despite the extensive repairs needed to make the structure habitable again. The 720-square-foot building, which was originally built in 1920, required a new roof and storefront after being badly burned in a fire during the 1950s.
“It was ready to be torn down,” Brian Rollins said. “It was a total renovation that needed new electric, new plumbing, a new floor and a new roof.”
Brian and Jane Rollins invested more than $100,000 into renovating the building and received some assistance from the City of Lincolnton through grant opportunities and a revolving loan for their efforts. GoodWood Pizzeria opened to the public in February, and its owners have been blown away by the reception they’ve received from the community.
“It’s just been fun since day one,” Brian Rollins said. “The City of Lincolnton, Lincoln County and the people who live here have supported us real well. They tell us that we have great pizza and a fun place to hang out, and it’s just been a really great experience since we opened.”
GoodWood serves 9-inch thin crust pizzas, all of which are wood-fired in a brick oven built by Brian Rollins. In addition to the pizzas, which come with a diner’s choice of sauces, cheeses and toppings, GoodWood also offers breads baked onsite every Wednesday and an assortment of beers, wines and soft drinks.
“You can bake a pizza without a brick oven, but it’s not the same,” Brian Rollins said. “We cook our pizzas at around 600 degrees with window pane-thin crust so that it’s good and crispy. We use organic flour for our dough, good sauces and quality ingredients, so you can tell the difference.”
The pizzeria seats 21 inside with two bars and a four-top table. One of the two bars faces the brick oven, and the other looks out the storefront window with a view of downtown Lincolnton. GoodWood also offers an additional 20 seats outside on their covered patio.
“We want to make everyone feel welcome here,” Brian Rollins said. “We greet everyone, and conversation is important to us so that’s why we don’t have any televisions in here. We make it a point to try to interact with everybody who joins us here at GoodWood Pizzeria.”