Peddling pizza changed Christian Buck’s life.
When he and his business partner first opened Cascadia Pizza Co. in June 2015, it was just a weekend gig — they’d hook up the tiny trailer they bought, drive it to a busy Enumclaw street or intersection, and ‘za it up for a few hours before taking it all down again and heading home.
But after three years of success, Kent-resident Buck and his team have gone full time, and are even opening their first brick and mortar restaurant on the north corner of Griffin and Porter this Saturday, Jan. 19, with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11:30 a.m.
Locals may recall this was the corner Fill’s Growlers occupied until they moved to the other side of their lot in the summer of 2018, and now faces Myrtle Avenue instead of the highway.
Fill’s original building (and parking lot) was where Cascadia Pizza actually started it’s business.
“We ended up selling about 120 pizzas that first day out there — no advertising, no nothing,” Buck recalled. “We just showed up, and people bought pizza from us.”
Since pizza and beer is practically a match made in heaven, Cascadia Pizza and Fill’s ended up developing “a really good partnership,” Buck continued.
In the meantime, Cascadia Pizza started catering weddings, which Buck said was extremely successful.
“Wood-fire pizza is really, really common now with weddings, because we’re so much more affordable than traditional steak and chicken,” he said.
During their first summer catering in 2016, they did 16 weddings. In the summer of 2017, they did 35 — all through word-of-mouth.
Interestingly enough, Cascadia Pizza helped Buck out with getting married to his wife.
“My father-in-law told me no the first time I asked him for my wife’s hand in marriage,” Buck recalled. “I had no future, I wasn’t really doing anything, I never went to college.”
But Buck’s persistence and success with the food truck business led his father-in-law to change his mind. Buck and Erika were married October 2017, and now the two are looking to buy a house in Enumclaw or Black Diamond.
“This company is everything to me,” he said.
By May 2017, Buck had quit his regular job to run Cascadia full time, and even bought the business from his partner and purchased a new food truck. But then he heard Fill’s was moving, and losing a such a prime business spot made his future financial prospects and Cascadia’s continued success look uncertain.
“I had no plan,” Buck said. “But I was like, ‘I can’t let anyone else have that spot. No way.’”
With the help of his father-in-law, Buck was able to raise some money to not only put a lease down on Fill’s old building in May 2018, but was also able to start renovating to turn it into a restaurant.
But even with the opening of the restaurant, Buck said he still hopes to send out the Cascadia Pizza food truck as a marketing tool. Currently, the food truck is often outside the newly-opened Headworks Brewing in Enumclaw on Marshall Avenue, but Buck also sends it off to other King County locations.
THE PIZZA EXPO
The International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas bills itself as the largest pizza show in the world, with more than 520 exhibition companies and around 7,400 pizza business attendees (the expo isn’t open to the general public) in 2017.
For the last several years, Buck himself attended as a spectator, but for the 35th annual Expo this March, Cascadia Pizza will be leaving Enumclaw to compete in the International Pizza Challenge.
“We think we have a very good chance of winning the whole thing,” Buck said.
There are five divisions of pizza bake-off competitions — traditional, non-traditional, pizza napoletana, pan pizza, and pizza romana.
Cascadia will be baking in the non-traditional division along with 59 other competitors. They’ll be going into preliminary round on March 6 with their “Wenatchee”: a pizza with a garlic butter sauce base topped with bacon, apple, and gorgonzola, and a balsamic reduction.
If Cascadia passes the preliminaries as one of the top four bakers, they move to the non-traditional final on March 7. If they win the finals, they receive a cash prize of $7,500 and move onto a mystery-ingredient bake off against other division winners for the Baker of the Year award, another $5,000 cash prize, and — of course — bragging rights.
No Washington state pizzeria has claimed a division title since at least 2012, according to past results.