Smokey's Pizza crews on Monday worked fast and furiously toward serving the company’s last slice at its Hazel Dell restaurant, the last remnant of what once was a chain of seven local restaurants.
Owner Dellan Redjou announced earlier in the day via Facebook that she would close the venue at 6920 N.E Highway 99 for good by the end of the day or when the supplies ran out. As word got out, loyal customers flocked to the tiny restaurant and by noon had formed a line that stretched from the front counter to the door. At one point, pizza lovers were waiting on their orders for two or more hours.
“We’ll probably be closed by 5 p.m.,” Redjou said at about 2:30 p.m. By then, the restaurant had run out of large “skins,” a term used to describe dough that has already been shaped and stretched or rolled out into a pizza round.
The closure, which ends Smokey’s Pizza’s 48-year run as one of Clark County’s favorite pizza businesses, comes less than two years after the death of Wayne Redjou, Dellan’s husband and business partner. Redjou did not sell the business but said she plans to lease the Hazel Dell site to two employees who will open a different pizza business there under a new name.
“A big part of (closing) is that Wayne is gone,” said Redjou, 55.
Smokey’s Pizza at one time operated from seven locations, including one Portland restaurant, Redjou said. The couple gradually closed many of those locations after Wayne Redjou was diagnosed with nonsmoking throat cancer about seven or eight years ago. He fought a long and hard battle with the illness until his death in January 2012.
“When he got sick, we had to retract,” Dellan Redjou said. “His health came first.”
Redjou met her husband when she was 19 and he was working the counter at Smokey’s, founded by his father Pete Redjou.
“He (Wayne Redjou) was this really good looking guy who started talking to me,” Dellan Redjou said. She was soon hired on at Smokey’s and eventually married Wayne. As the owners of Smokey’s the Redjous supported numerous sports teams, schools and scholarship programs, in addition to selling and delivering the company’s one-of-a-kind “Hot Oven” pizzas throughout the area.
Some longtime customers took the closing hard. “It’s a shame after 48 years,” said lifelong Clark County resident Wray Webb, 47, as walked out the front door of the restaurant on Monday. “I cut my teeth on Smokey’s Pizza.”
Portland resident Stephanie Giles, 32, headed straight to Smokey’s Pizza after leaving work early on Monday, taking time off from her job at a Portland retirement facility.
“I wanted to make sure I could get in,” said Giles, a former Vancouver resident. “I’ve been eating this pizza forever.”
Vancouver resident Nathan Burton, 21, said he will miss Smokey’s Pizza’s food and family get-togethers at the venue where he visits his sister, Felicia Ray, who works at the Hazel Dell restaurant.
“It’s good pizza,” Nathan Burton said, as he shared a half pepperoni and half Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza with his dad, Bradley Burton, on Monday afternoon. The elder Burton said he hoped the closure would give his daughter incentive to seek higher-paying work.
“She’s enjoyed working here for the most part,” he said. “Maybe this is a sign for her to move on.”
While waiting for his pizza order on Monday, Vancouver businessman Doug Palin said he hopes owners of the new pizza restaurant will support the community just as the owners of Smokey’s Pizza have done through the years.
“Dellan and Wayne were pretty involved,” Palin said. “It’s unfortunate that that’s going away.”
Through the years, thousands of local Little League players sported the Smokey’s Pizza logo on team jerseys and caps. Outfield sponsorship signs carried Smokey’s banner with its signature mascot, a cherubic-looking red devil with horns and a pitchfork. The company’s restaurants proudly displayed team trophies and group photos.
Smokey’s Pizza also supported the Hazel Dell Parade of Bands and made donations to more than 30 local schools on a regular basis. In 2010, the Redjous were inducted by the Rotary Club of Vancouver Sunrise into the Clark County Hall of Fame.
“My husband liked the sports teams. Education is a really big deal to me,” said Redjou, the mother of two teenagers. Her daughter Rachel Redjou is a senior at Prairie High School and a Running Start student at Clark College. Daughter Kelly is a freshman at Prairie.
Redjou closed the Smokey’s Pizza restaurant in the Orchards area in July, bringing the chain down to the one Hazel Dell location. Her decision to close the last restaurant wasn’t easy, she said.
Some 30 employees are affected, although some will work for the new owners at the restaurant they’ll create in the Hazel Dell building, Redjou said.
“Some of these people have worked for me for a long time,” she said. “You don’t just lightly make a decision like this because it doesn’t just affect me, it affects the entire crew.”
The closure will affect about 30 employees, Redjou said.
"Some of these people have worked for me for a long time," she said. "You don't just lightly make a decision like this because it doesn't just affect me, it affects the entire crew."
Redjou plans to lease the Hazel Dell site to two employees who plan to open an entirely different pizza business there.