In 1993, Richard Brown founded Vancouver Pizza Company and since then, it’s become a staple for many Clark County residents.
In 2000, the business was sold to Cliff and Karen McMillen and their two other business partners and in 2003, the McMillens became independent and took over Vancouver Pizza as their own. In 2006, a devastating fire forced the couple to consider whether they could rise out of the ashes or close the doors completely. They decided that they would endure the hardship and fight to bring back Vancouver Pizza stronger than before. Ten years later, in 2016, a beautiful remodel of their location served as a testimony of Vancouver Pizza’s commitment to grow and stay within the local community.
Today, the company still uses the recipes from the original owner, Brown, and there are now 15 to 20 employees who work on a part-time and full-time basis. Karen McMillen believes that Vancouver Pizza’s ability to provide patrons with fresh, handmade menu items is part of the reason why people keep coming back.
“Handcrafted, made-from-scratch recipes never go out of style and are healthier to eat,” McMillen said. “Gluten-free and vegan are also a large part of our community’s needs and we have an amazing (gluten-free) crust as well as a vegan cheese available. We have always been a proponent of health, and combined with our consistency and desire to stay ahead of and in touch with our customers’ expectations, we feel that is all we need to be a part of whatever ‘scene’ is being touted.”
McMillen also shares that Vancouver Pizza does many things that are opposite of the latest trends that are out there.
“To cut costs, many restaurants have moved to counter service while we remain with tableside service and a commitment to face-to-face interaction,” she said. “Other places have dropped or severely limited their delivery range, while we expanded delivery to try to provide our food to the entire Vancouver area and even North Portland, which is no small feat.”
“We don’t give our staff measuring or portion cups to make our entrées — they are trained to eyeball the perfect amount and to craft a pizza according to each customer’s needs,” McMillen continued. “As a result, our training costs are quite high compared to other establishments. Other owners are going tiny or to food carts, while we just remodeled and doubled the size of our restaurant. Maybe we are succeeding because we are making our own way.”
The recent remodel has been great for business, too, as it allows the company to serve larger groups of customers.
“It is great to take a call for a reservation of 80 and say ‘yes,’” McMillen said. “A larger space gives us much more creative energy to host special events or niche out sections of the restaurant to make their dining experience unique.”
During the remodel, the kitchen was upgraded as well, which allowed for the installation of a new oven, gas range and more cooking space.
Community partnerships are also important to Vancouver Pizza. They’ve been instrumental in starting or supporting various causes, including the annual Christmas in the Village and Cruise the Couve.
“Our level of community partnership is hyper local and sincere,” McMillen said. “Whether it’s fundraising for the new firehouse or the neighbor kid who walked in our front door with a crazy idea, if you meet us halfway we will help you with your cause.”
The future is bright for Vancouver Pizza. They recently added chicken wings to the menu, which has been a big hit, and the company plans on expanding menu options in the coming months.
“No matter how long you’ve been in business, nothing is guaranteed,” McMillen said. “Just be yourself and the let the customer discover the sincerity of your service.”