“Slinging pie today,” the words Moondog Pizza fans had been waiting to read, appeared on the eatery’s Facebook page on Sunday.
After about a month-and-a-half of downtime after the pizzeria’s closure at its original location, Moondog reopened its door to customers this week in a much larger downtown Morganton space at 304 S. Sterling St., Suite 100.
As folks enter the store building’s far-right door and climb one flight of stairs, a dining room greets them on their left and a full bar area — something new to Moondog — is to the right.
The hassles and delays of moving from the old West Union Street spot seem worth it based on the increased seating — from 40 up to about 140 customers — more plentiful parking on South Sterling, in the rear of the restaurant (with handicap accessibility) and on both sides, and the downtown locale.
“(The move) was pretty exhausting, I can tell you that,” said Dena Fotinopoulos, general manager at Moondog, on Tuesday as the pizzeria finished up its third-day-back lunch rush. “Just actually physically moving the stuff wasn’t that bad. Just getting everything changed over — because you don’t really realize how involved you are with so many vendors until you have to start calling everyone and moving.
“The community’s been really good. We’ve had people who showed up who owned their own business and showed up with trucks and helped us get equipment moved in on the first day. It took a lot to get all that stuff in.”
Fotinopoulos said Moondog is “extremely happy” with its end result. The customers seem to feel the same way — the response has been positive and the pizza-hungry were lined down the steps waiting for a table at one point on Sunday — getting the restaurant off to a great start downtown.
“I think it’s very important to be downtown,” Fotinopoulos said. “Our little town has grown so much. We get so many people through here from out of town. I’ve had people who came in here all the way from Raleigh just to see us, so that makes us feel really good that people follow us wherever we go.
“And being downtown is important because you’ve got Catawba (Brewing Co.) right there (next door), and those people are coming over here to get something to eat.”
The pizzeria also plans to deliver in the downtown area. That service likely will start in the next couple months, Fotinopoulos said.
With the full bar addition, Moondog has added liquor to its previous selections of beer and wine. “We had not done anything like that before, so it was definitely a process,” Fotinopoulos said.
Another addition is a stage in the corner of the dining room as Moondog hopes to add live entertainment to its menu. “We definitely want to do that at some point. We’re just getting our feet wet being open at the moment, and seeing what we can handle after that,” she said.
And one of the biggest additions to the new Moondog is extra staff. “I tripled it. It took us from 12 or 13 to right now I have 41 active employees in the computer,” Fotinopoulos said.
Getting back open when it did served as a nice holiday present for the eatery with Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year coming right up, though the hustle and bustle of it all led to some anxiety along the way.
“We were nervous about it at first, being open the week of Thanksgiving,” Fotinopoulos said. “But it’s working out. Downtown’s really helped us. Sharon Jablonski and Abby Nelson (from the Main Street Office) just left (after eating lunch on Tuesday). They’re huge supporters. The Burke chamber has been here every day asking what they can do, and that’s been huge. A lot of the downtown small business owners have been in to support us already in the past three days.
“It’s been great. I love it.”