Just in case visitors to FarmHouse Pizza in Rockford gloss over the down home, countrified theme of the town’s newest restaurant craze, the roll call of pizza names is there as a reminder.
Customers can pick from a list that includes “The Rustler,” “Barn Yard,” “Chicken Hawk” and more, all with generous toppings that owner Sheila McCormick says you won’t find at the chain locations. There is also the option of creating your own pizza from a collection of items that includes favorites like pepperoni and green onions as well as non-traditional garnishes like jalapenos and artichokes.
“People say they love our pizzas,” said Sheila who opened FarmHouse on Dec. 31, 2012. “I think we’ve really tapped into a market.”
Sheila moved from Spokane to Rockford with her husband and kids four years ago and realized the area was missing a good pizza place. She considered opening a franchise, but decided on starting a business from the ground up.
“There’s more freedom running your own business,” said Sheila whose home is two minutes fro the restaurant.
With a population of around 500, Rockford was home to two locally owned restaurants before FarmHouse arrived at the end of last year. Beyond the encouraging level of support from the locals, McCormick said the business has thrived thanks to interest from outside town. Pizza enthusiasts have arrived from as far away as St. Mary’s, Idaho while many motorists make a special stop in Rockford to order FarmHouse on their way to or from a destination.
“It’s doing way better than any of us anticipated,” Sheila said. “I like the community aspect. Every time a business opens in this area and is successful, it shows it can be done. Our towns are still worth it.”
When Sheila was seeking financing for her new venture, Rockford Mayor Micki Harnois told her that representatives from SNAP had recently made a presentation in Rockford to the Hangman Creek Chamber of Commerce. The topic of SNAP’s support for small businesses had been discussed at the gathering.
“I’d applied for a bunch of grants and was told that SNAP was out there and could help,” Sheila said.
Sheila met with Cara Weipert, business development specialist with SNAP last autumn to talk about ways the agency could get FarmHouse off the ground. Sheila established an individual development account (IDA) that involved saving $1,000 of her own money over a six-month period to qualify for a $4,000 grant from SNAP. Cara also helped Sheila and FarmHouse with a business plan and promotion.
“It definitely helped,” Sheila said. “It helped with saving and having a goal. Having that $1,000 as an emergency fund gave me peace of mind and I used the $4,000 to pay off the debt on equipment I bought for the restaurant.”
The first day FarmHouse was open, 52 pizzas were sold. Thriving business has meant Sheila has already paid off half of her entire debt in less than a year. She would like to expand the 600 square foot building on First Avenue to include a small seating area. She would also like to add more employees.
“Our town needs it,” Sheila said. “It’s tough to find work here.”
As FarmHouse prepares to celebrate its one-year anniversary, Sheila said she is grateful for an agency that delivered at a critical time.
“It’s always nice to know you have support for your idea,” she said. “SNAP provided that.”