Update: Sidewall Pizza now open in Travelers Rest

Update (01/19/15): Sidewall Pizza opens tonight at 5 p.m. They’ll have limited hours for a while as they settle into the flow of their new business, but you can keep up with them on Facebook. Eventually, they’ll be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. - Read more here.

Original story: 11/21/14

By Nichole Livengood, Contributing Columnist:

Andy O’Mara and Loren Frant are relatively new to Travelers Rest, but it didn’t take them long to fall in love with the city.

Andy is the owner of Merrimack Canoe Company, previously based in Tennessee. At first, he purchased the old Bryant and Lell tire shop on South Main Street with the intent to house his canoe company there, but the business outgrew the space before renovations were complete. Andy moved Merrimack to a larger location in Travelers Rest and began making plans for a new pizza restaurant — Sidewall Pizza Company.

“We had been in TR a few months and, of course, we had fallen in love with the city," Andy said. "We had made friends and we saw the exciting growth happening. During our short time in town, we saw the opening of Shortfield’s, Whistlestop, Salon Blu, Hub Fitness, Tandem, TReats, Sunflower, Swamp Rabbit Brewery, and so many more awesome businesses. We knew we wanted to be a part of this exciting time for this awesome city and we knew we wanted to further contribute to and invest in TR.”

Opening a pizza place is something Andy has always wanted to do. His family loves pizza – they plan travel and entire family gatherings around it! But it’s hard to know whether the pizza or the location will be the star of this show. The old tire shop has a solid place in Travelers Rest’s rich history.  All of the locals who go way back remember the days when they had their tires changed or repaired there. The waiting area always had old Travelers Rest High School yearbooks, and I’d flip through them looking for people around town while I sat and waited on my tires to be fixed.

Andy wanted to pay homage to the history of the building by not only preserving the history in its renovation but by naming the company after the sidewall of a tire – the side of a tire, between the tread shoulder and the rim bead.

“We’ve kept the concrete floors with all of their character," he said. "We kept the garage feel but modernized it with glass roll up doors (which we will open for al fresco dining on beautiful days!), a tin ceiling, contemporary industrial lights, and new finishes.”

With the weather being so cool lately, my heart skips the beat at the thought of eating pizza and drinking a craft beer while a warm breeze rolls in through the building’s open glass doors! Andy believes in supporting the local Travelers Rest economy by supporting local contractors through the building’s renovations, and he envisions Sidewall being more than just a pizza joint.

“Sidewall will be a an active and engaged member of the TR community,” Andy said. “We plan to partner with local organizations for fundraising events and to regularly donate our time and our resources directly to the local community.”

Sidewall’s menu is an exciting combination of salads, pizzas, ice cream, craft soda, craft beer, wine, and house-brewed iced and sweet tea. Instead of pushing quantity, they plan to focus on doing a few things really well, upping the quality you might expect from a pizza place.

Andy said salads will feature local and organic vegetables (when available), house made dressings, and a variety of combinations to please the palette. House made ice cream will be served in scoops and soda floats, and there’s talk of warm house made chocolate chip cookies! Sodas are all-natural cane sugar fountain sodas produced in small batches by a family-run company, and Sidewall will be the first place to serve them in the state.  (And I’m looking forward to seeing their craft beer and wine menu, too!)

But Sidewall’s pizza is the heart of the operation, and you can see how much love has gone into the planning when you hear Andy talk about it.

“Our house made, hand-stretched dough creates a crust that is the perfect combination of crispy, airy, and chewy,” he said. "It holds toppings well but is light enough that you can keep eating it without that heavy, full feeling."

Topped with premium meats, cheeses, and vegetables, diners at Sidewall will enjoy creative house combinations and seasonal specials. They’ll also be able to build their own combinations from an awesome list of ingredients. Fresh ingredients, handmade dough, and premium toppings – this is what every pizza place should aspire to.

Andy even has plans for the future of Sidewall that take the culture and beauty of Travelers Rest into consideration.

“(Our) property has about 3,000 square feet of open space that’s directly adjacent to the Swamp Rabbit Trail," he said. "We plan to landscape this area to provide trail access to the restaurant and a fun and comfortable outdoor dining and hangout space. This part of our property is a hidden gem and we can’t wait for it!”

Sidewall is slated to open in about seven weeks. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram and  stay updated on their progress and projected opening date!

Read more from Nichole Livengood on her Gap Creek Gourmet blog here.