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The Rock: Wood-fired, community-inspired

Step into any of The Rock Wood-Fired Pizza & Spirits’ twelve Northwest locations and you’ll be greeted by battered brick walls, flame decals, classic tunes and posters of rock legends. But make no mistake about it; rock music is more than just a decorative theme at this expanding franchise. It’s part of the restaurant’s philanthropic focus.

As Marketing Director Jackie Mendez explained, “Classic rock is timeless; it stretches across generations.”

Brad Loucks, owner of The Rock Vancouver, echoed this sentiment:

“It’s unbelievable how it just kind of keeps resurging itself into the younger demographic. My ten year old daughter, after watching American Idol this year, is a big Aerosmith fan now.”

Not to be outdone by television, The Rock started “Battle of the Bands,” a competition in which high school bands submit their renditions of classic rock songs to win prize money.

According to the franchise's website, the goal in creating the Battle [of the Bands] five years ago was to inspire the art of classic rock in younger generations while allowing students the opportunity to compete to give back to their school music programs that are in dire need of financial support. More than $65,000 in cash and prizes has been awarded, according to Louks, with Camas’ Union High School earning $5000 in 2010 for their creative video and impressive performance of “Breadfan” by Budgie.

While music is certainly a central focus of The Rock and its philanthropic efforts, the franchise seeks to give back to the community in a variety of other ways. The Rock Vancouver has worked with Energy Events for the Fort Vancouver Run, which benefits the Fort. It has also sponsored the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Foundation’s Summer Reading Program, by donating a portion of its proceeds from the St. Patrick’s Day ShamROCK fundraiser.

“The local community is the reason we continue to be a successful business and the least we can do is give back,” explained Louks. “It builds a great relationship that benefits the business and the groups involved.”

Speaking of business, as the title suggests, The Rock prides themselves in their wood-fired pizzas. Restaurant-goers can try the “Revolution,” which features pulled-pork, pineapple and peppers, all drizzled in The Rock’s own barbeque sauce. There’s also “The Stairway to Heaven,” an Italian style pie with prosciutto, arugula and tomatoes. Despite the emphasis on pizza, the franchise feels somewhat like a brew-pub, serving up burgers and house-brewed drafts as well.

“The owners think that having a good brew is important and that does well in the Portland area market,” explained Mendez.

And then there are The Rock’s buckets – popular mixed drinks served in children’s toy buckets. The franchise sells roughly 150,000 of them per year, which is more than any toy store.

“Kids have them at the beach with our Rock logo,” said Mendez. “It’s become such a great signature of our restaurant.”

This kind of juxtaposition epitomizes what The Rock is: a family-friendly restaurant, music hangout and community brewery. It’s a model the franchise is ready to see expand, having recently partnered with H. Katz Capital Group to form Dream On LLC. They plan on opening 15 to 30 new restaurants throughout the country by 2018, five to seven of which will be in the Portland Vancouver Metro area.

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