FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — Rob and Jody Bales have opened a Papa Murphy’s Take and Bake Pizza in Stockbridge Commons near Tega Cay.
It’s their second venture into the Papa Murphy franchise. They opened a Take and Bake in Rock Hill in 2009, at the corner of Celanese Road and India Hook, just a few months after they moved to the area from Seattle.
“We thought it would be like Starbucks. Everybody would know what we did and we would just provide the service,” Jody Bales said.
But it wasn’t that simple
“In Seattle, there were Papa Murphy’s on every corner,” Jody said. “The brand was established 30 years ago and was as popular as Bojangles’ here in the South.”
The problem was, few people here had ever heard of Papa Murphy’s, so the couple had to establish the brand before they could start selling ready-to-bake pizzas.
Armed with a concession trailer, they set out to convince football fans and other audiences that theirs was the freshest, best-tasting pizza. It’s a family affair and you will often find Jody or Rob with their portable oven, handing out fresh-baked pizzas and samples. She was at the Nation Ford/Fort Mill game just a few weeks ago. Her daughter attends Nation Ford, and Jody said, “We all stress and struggle together.”
For the uninitiated, there are a few things that set Papa Murphy’s apart from the rest of the pizza distributors. There is no freezer in-house, so everything is fresh. Even the dough is made every other day. Produce is locally grown and procured.
You decide what you want on your pizza, order it over the phone (online ordering is anticipated in the new year), pick it up and bake it at home. There are also already-assembled pizzas you can order.
Crust choices are thin, original or stuffed. There’s a Mini Murph pizza for kids to make and bake at home. There are also sides including cheesy bread, and salads and three take-and-bake dessert pizzas: cinnamon wheel, s’mores and chocolate-chip cookie dough. Soft drinks in 20-ounce and 2-liter bottles are also available.
Special packaging allows you to cook on the cardboard provided so the dough bakes up as crisp as you care to make it. Baking instructions are included and are also available online at papamurphys.com.
And the plastic wrap is not meant to be left on. Jody recalls a difficult experience when someone called to complain about melting the plastic in the oven. Rob is a practical joker and she was certain he was calling to provoke her – but just before she laid into him, she realized this was indeed an irate customer who had neglected to remove the plastic wrap and was demanding a new pizza. The directions are on the product – and as they hand a pizza to customers, they now explain that the wrap is for freshness and must be removed before cooking.
According to the company’s website, Papa Murphy’s was established in 1981 and it has grown to become the “largest Take ‘N’ Bake pizza company in the world.”
The Bales’ store is at 729 Stockbridge Drive, across from the Harris Teeter, near the intersection of Gold Hill and Hwy. 160 West. It’s on the same side as Fort Mill Barbecue Co.
Rob said plans for a third location are in the works.