ASHTABULA COUNTY, Ohio — The pizza rolls may be hot and sizzling at Purola's Bridge Street Pizzeria in historic Ashtabula Harbor, but unfortunately for owner Chris Purola, the restaurant is not.
“It's a little bit quiet right now,” he tells 3News. “Really quiet. Almost eerie.”
The lifelong Ashtabula County resident and his wife, Wynona, saw sales drop since the governor restricted restaurants to delivery and carryout only to help fight the spread of COVID-19.
“You know it worried me because I didn't know what was going to happen,” Wynona says. “But I knew in the back of my mind that it didn't matter because people love us.”
The state order inspired the Purolas to get creative. They came up with a Pay-It-Forward program where people could buy a $3 slice of pizza for someone else to eat. Each slice purchased is represented by a paper slice hanging on their Giving Wall. Anyone can come in and grab a paper slice off the wall and trade it in for a real slice with no questions asked.
“We expected maybe 50 to 75 slices sold,” Chris says.
But thanks to donations from the community, there are more than 400 paper slices on the wall.
“Everybody wanted to feed somebody,” Wynona says.
That included The Move Ministries, where Sam Vicente serves as lead pastor. Purola’s BGP had reached out to Pastor Vicente along with different ministries and organizations in the community to let them know they had pizza to give away.
“So, we wanted to get together with them and pass out pizzas to those who are less fortunate,” Pastor Vicente says.
The ministry tried to pay Purola's for the food, but Chris said no way. He wanted them to use the pizza already purchased through The Giving Wall.
“I didn't want to rob somebody of a blessing,” Chris explains. “It was a blessing for us to give it to them.”
“And that's what our goal is, to feed whoever needs it,” Wynona says.
According to The Move’s Facebook page, the pizza was used to feed the local police and fire departments, men at a rehabilitation center and many others in need.
Wynona says she wants to make sure the coronavirus pandemic doesn't close her husband’s business. The couple wants their values and their pizzeria to be passed on to their infant son.
“He's going to be ready to take over one day. It’s just very heartwarming and we don’t want to see it (the business) fail because of this virus.”