Three business owners in Spokane, Washington, started an inside joke about owning a pizzeria. A week later, they had closed on a former pizza place. Just a few short months have passed since, and the three friends have successfully opened Thunder Pie Pizza to the public, where they serve wood-fired pizzas, wings, beer, cocktails and more.
The three owners are not without credentials. Joel Barbour owns The Great PNW, a Spokane clothing company. Ben Poffenroth owns Durkins Liquor Bar, and Ramsey Pruchnic owns Hello Sugar and Uno Mas taco shop, two respective restaurants in the Spokane area.
“All of our personalities are [reflected] in the brand,” Barbour told The Spokesman-Review. Barbour was a regular at a pizza place that once inhabited the space where they opened Thunder Pie Pizza. He took on the task of redesigning the interior of the restaurant. “We knew we could turn it into something really great. The bones were there. We really just gave it a facelift.”
Each friend specializes in an aspect of running the restaurant. Barbour handles marketing and branding; Pruchnic oversees the shop’s finances; and Poffenroth handles day-to-day operations.
The shop has something of a skater vibe, with graffiti-like messaging adorning the walls. The owners may be former skaters themselves, donning colorful tattoos and shoulder-length hair.
“Maybe our atmosphere is more for people who used to skate but now they’re business professionals,” Pruchnic said. “Skateboarding kind of reminds me of a more grungy, dive-bar kind of feel.”
The ownership team said they designed the menu based on input from friends and family, as well as veterans of the industry. Pies range from a standard Pepperoni to a Pear & Blue Cheese pie, and none of the pizzas are priced above $18. Starters include Meatballs, Garlic Knots and Shishito Peppers, while wing flavors include Buffalo, Cajun Dry Rub, BBQ and Buck Naked.
“We spent six weeks tasting our sauces and collaborating with friends to make sure the menu is perfect,” Pruchnic said.
It was Poffenrath who designed the cocktail menu, which features nine signature drinks. The beer menu has 14 different draft selections, and there’s a solid selection of wines as well. Pruchnic feels bullish on the beverage program his friend put together: “No one has a cocktail menu like we have,” he told the Spokesman-Review.
Even if Thunder Pie Pizza started as a joke, the trio of friends is confident they’ve built a concept with legs. Part of that confidence is owed to their collective and extensive experience as business owners.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” Pruchnic said. “(Poffenroth) and I have opened multiple restaurants on our own, so we knew what we were doing. My restaurants are more fast-casual and his are sit-down, and this is kind of in the middle. So, it’s been pretty straightforward.”