Harborside Pizza reopens in restaurant setting

Alaskan 49er remains a top seller, as pizzeria adds new menu items

Brian Wildrick and Lindsay Butters were sitting in their vehicle in April of 2015 when they got the call from the bank officer telling them that their loan for an indoor, sit-down pizzeria was approved.

Wildrick was incredulous upon hearing the news.

“I felt disbelief. All the times we’d been stopped in the loan process, again and again,” Wildrick said. “I guess what I was feeling when I heard the news was, I’ll believe it when I see it.”

The husband and wife team worked for several years to relocate from their small, take-out pizza joint in a trailer, located behind Alaska Commercial Company, to a permanent building.

While they loved the original site, their goals were much bigger.

Their dream of a real restaurant, where they could serve food and beverages to customers in a relaxed, sit-down-style, family atmosphere had become their passion, and, at times, a struggle.

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“In 2007, we had the plans drawn up for the permanent building,” Wildrick said. “There was a long lag getting everything together.”

“From the time we were approved in April of last year for the loan, then finally starting construction on the new building a year later, then finally opening the doors for the first time in September, it’s been a long road,” he said.

Carbon Neutral Alternatives, a general contractor in Cordova, constructed the new Harborside restaurant. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times
Carbon Neutral Alternatives, a general contractor in Cordova, constructed the new Harborside restaurant.
Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

A crazy opening week

After weeks of wondering about when the restaurant would open and what would be on the menu came the Sept. 23 announcement on Harborside’s Facebook page: “Come and get it! #harborsitinside. We are open till 9 p.m., beer, wine and pizza. Made with love. Thank you, we look forward to seeing you.”

Remembering the chaos of the first week and the weather gave Butters goose bumps, she said.

“That first week was crazy, a blur! There was wind, rain and hail, and then there were rainbows. The winds of change blew through here. We believe that rainbows are visits from our ancestors and I believe it was a significant occurrence,” Butters said.

The new building, which seats 24 people, is an environmental design built by Carbon Neutral Alternatives.

It’s an energy efficient plan, with windows providing 70 percent of the natural lighting inside,” Wildrick said.

“There have been so many milestones to hit. The lease, then purchase of the property, then additional financing to build. We did it – we ALL did it. Here we are, today, working inside our dream and feeding pizza to the people!”

A slice of the Harborside Pizza Joint’s gourmet pizza. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times
A slice of the Harborside Pizza Joint’s gourmet pizza.
Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

History of Harborside Pizza

Butters and Wildrick were married on Sept. 24, 2011.

But let’s back up just a bit.

Butters came to Cordova in 2004, for an internship with the Prince William Sound Science Center. Wildrick showed up in the spring of 2005, to help build a cabin at Shelter Cover.

They’re both former New Yorkers.

They met in August of 2005, on the dance floor at the Alaskan Bar, grooving to the music of Bobby Walker and the Roadsters.

“I think our love of music and big dreads drew us together,” Butters said, referring to Wildrick’s former mass of dreadlocks and the night they spent dancing together.

In 2006, the couple started making and baking wood fired pizzas in a wood oven inside the Lighthouse Inn.

Next, they decided they wanted to try their luck at running a place of their own and subsequently applied to the city of Cordova for a lease on a parcel of land in the South Fill.

“We had to get the lease for this property first – that’s how it was done then,” Wildrick said. “In 2008, the custom trailer, with the oven from Italy built into the design, was ordered and built. The oven is the heart of Harborside Pizza. We spent eight years in that building.”

Rowan Wildrick received a boost from his mom, Lindsay Butters, as he puts up a food order inside the Harborside Pizza Joint. Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times
Rowan Wildrick received a boost from his mom, Lindsay Butters, as he puts up a food order inside the Harborside Pizza Joint.
Photo by Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson/The Cordova Times

Family-style pie

Rowan, the couple’s gregarious son, who will be four in January, climbs up and down the stools at the restaurant’s counters, then sits, coloring pictures, and visits with restaurant patrons.

The preschooler has grown up in the pizza business.

Sometimes, he even gets to make his own pizza, imitating his dad’s style.

While it’s a family business, many Cordovans have lent a helping hand to their success.

Forty-eight people wrote letters of support to Wildrick’s and Butter’s financial institution, describing what life is like in Cordova, Alaska, and why Harborside Pizza – and Lindsay, Brian and Rowan, are such an integral part of the community.

“The bank people have never been here,” Wildrick said. “Cordovans explained to them what the real story about Cordova is. We’re so thankful for everyone who showed us such amazing support throughout this long process.”

New surprises and old favorites

Harborside’s Alaskan 49er continues to be the establishment’s top-seller. Maybe it’s the reindeer sausage.

“We also have a new chicken parmesan on the menu,” Wildrick said. “It’s pan-breaded, quick fried and then baked in the wood fired oven.”

Plans are to add more seafood entrees to the menu, such as slow roasted shrimp, cooked with lemon, white wine and butter.

Homemade ice cream, hand-churned in an Amish-style oak barrel, is also on the menu.

The flavors last week were chocolate and peanut butter, and honey and ginger ice cream.

Wildrick’s signature red pizza sauce is made with fresh basil, diced onion, vegetable oil, salt and pepper, oregano, real garlic powder and premium diced tomatoes.

“My favorite part is having tables in the restaurant, hearing everybody laughing and having a good time,” Wildrick said, his eyes tearing up. “Everyone says they’re excited to come in. I love that people are in here with us, enjoying themselves so much.”

The restaurant currently has nine employees.

Butters said they already have a garden area set up next to the restaurant, a 28-foot long by 2-foot wide plot, so that they can grow their own greens.

They hope to grow fresh snow peas, basil, romaine lettuce, and other herbs, all which will be incorporated into menu items.

“It will be really nice to do our own gardening and offer our own herbs and vegetables to our salads and enhance our menu,” Butters said.

It’s all part of finally feeling part of the community.

“We’re local now,” Wildrick said. “Rowan can be a local and go to school here. I grew up as an Army brat and we never lived in any place more than five years. This is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place.”

Harborside Pizza is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day, except Tuesday.

Call 907-424-3730 for take-out orders.

Daily specials are posted on the Facebook page: 

https://www.facebook.com/Harborside-Pizza-222700293668/?fref=ts

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Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson
Cinthia Gibbens-Stimson is a staff writer and photographer for The Cordova Times. She has been writing in one form or another for 30-plus years and has had a longstanding relationship with The Cordova Times starting in 1989. She's been an Alaskan since 1976 and first moved to Cordova in 1978. She's lived in various West Texas towns; in Denver, Colorado; in McGrath, Cordova, Galena, Kodiak, Wasilla, Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and in Bangalore, India. She has two children and three grandchildren. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram @alaskatoindia.