Debbie Croft: Pizza Factory will return with surprises

September 28, 2012 


Earlier this month I spoke with Ron Willey about construction progress on his new Pizza Factory building (the old one burned to the ground in May).

He dispelled the rumors of more parking and a game room upstairs, but he's got some surprises planned and a bigger, better space. One that's still true to the original, though.

Willey said he was excited to see things moving along so well. "The building permits were approved in about 80 days," he said, "and almost all the foundation is in as we speak."

By now, framing on one section of the building has begun, and in a couple of weeks workers will begin framing the rest. Construction is on track with the potential spring opening, but much depends on the weather.

"We need the rain," Willey said, "but hopefully it'll rain at night so we can get this done."

Alpine Builders of Mariposa is the contractor. "Dave Gerken (owner of Alpine Builders) is coordinating everything with the architect and city fathers," said Willey, who was glad to find local companies to do the work.

The new Pizza Factory will look the same only better, Willey said. Its design incorporates safer materials, fire walls, sprinklers and electrical wires in conduit. The space will be more energy efficient and more comfortable for customers.

The building was expanded about 15 feet on the west side, providing extra space for dining, game areas and food prep.

Unlike the footprint of the original, the new one is bigger because Willey got approval to build up to property the lines. "It's very critical to have all the usable space possible," he said.

Willey has a few surprises for the community, but he wants the "Wow, this never left" feeling to greet customers walking into the new place.

The tentative goal is to open on or before May 11, 2013, the one-year anniversary of the fire.

Weekend in the country

The Tomato Fest is today and Sunday in Mariposa.

It's a great excuse for a drive in the foothills, to enjoy a slower pace for a couple of days, breathe clean air and get a taste of the country, especially tomatoes.

"Family fun" is the theme, with activities, arts and crafts, and competitions of all kinds, featuring haiku, jingle compositions, best-tasting salsa, a tomato-eating contest and, of course, tomato judging.

Downtown restaurants are preparing their signature tomato recipes, and several family farms will be open for tours. Guided walks and workshops are on the schedule for those interested in birds, native plants, gardening and conservation landscaping.

Sample tomato pie or shop at the farmers market. Lots of children's activities are planned, too.

Local bands will perform throughout the weekend, including Tim Hagar, DelaRey and the Jespersons, Moon in Leo and the Mighty Grizzly Show Band.

Today's activities begin at 9 a.m. and go until 5 p.m.

Sunday's program is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For festival information, maps and schedules, visit:

Today is also National Public Lands Day, and entrance to Yosemite National Park is free to the public.

There's still time to volunteer with the Yosemite Facelift project, going on through tomorrow.

The Yosemite Climbing Association organized this annual event, which brings in volunteers to help clean up the park after another busy summer tourist season.

Kari Cobb, a spokeswoman for the park, said more than 1,300 volunteers collected in excess of 4,000 pounds of small trash, and more 400,000 pounds of old asphalt and concrete last year. Most of the debris was recycled.

Those interested in volunteering should meet at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., or at the Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. A booth will be in place for registration.

Raffle tickets will be given to participants for each day of work.

Evening programs are scheduled as well, including a reception tomorrow evening featuring complimentary food, beverages and live music. Visit for details.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at

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