BLACKSBURG – When Dawn Holesa, an elementary school teacher, and Renee Goodling, an elementary school nurse, retired after working together at the same school in central Pennsylvania for 25 years, they found themselves starting a new chapter of their lives.
Holesa and Goodling say they are as close as sisters and love doing things together. Both had previously resided in central Pennsylvania, but when Holesa’s son was recruited to the baseball team at Virginia Tech University, she discovered Blacksburg. Goodling soon retired and moved to Blacksburg as well.
The women decided to go in together on a restaurant franchise and Your Pie in Blacksburg was conceived, opening in December 2019 just three months before covid hit. The business continued to stay open through third-party delivery services, and Holesa says they were thankful to have the third-party delivery set-up before the pandemic began.
One organization that the owners have found support through is referred as SWaM, or Small, Women-Owned, or Minority-Owned business. Certification is acquired by registering with the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) organization, which provides small business owners with support in increasing economic business opportunities.
The original Your Pie franchise is 15 years old and was founded by Drew French, who runs the first establishment in Athens, Ga. Holesa shares that if you are in the Athens area, you will find the owner working in his own restaurant. Holesa and Goodling say they have been impressed by the supportive family the franchise chain provides. Fellow Your Pie owners make themselves available and are online daily to answer questions and help each other. Both owners said they found this kind of support invaluable and could not have made it without their franchise family.
Speaking on the topic of their staff, Holesa says the franchise is all about family and the owners encourage the same philosophy with staff.
We say to our staff “welcome to the family,” said Holesa in a recent interview. “You will be treated as such. We hire a lot of college and high school students and encourage their friends to work here too. We try to accommodate their schedules.”
When asked about getting started in a business so different from their previous background in the school system, Renee shared that it was important to “align yourself with good people.”
Of course, both owners had to learn on the fly too. In terms of previous food experience, Renee was a waitress one or two summers, and Holesa worked at McDonalds for one summer, when both were in college. The owners shared that they were willing to work hard though, and don’t “cower from a challenge.” Starting the business has required both.
The business owners say they have seen growth in their business by making many connections in the Blacksburg community and Virginia Tech University through their catering services. Some of the previous events have included office events, fairs such as one at the VT Inn they were invited to serve, and athletic teams, such as baseball, football, softball, and lacrosse. These athletic organizations have shared their information with visiting teams, and out of state of teams as well, helping to increase the business’ outreach.
Your Pie, located at 608 University City Blvd., Blacksburg, offers a variety of pizza options, pasta, salads, and gelato. The restaurant also provides gluten-free and non-dairy options. Local craft beer and bottled/can drinks, some wine, and non-alcoholic beverages are also available. Check out their website at www.yourpie.com.
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