A new business venture requires too much work and planning to assign too much of its success to kismet, but there is no denying there is an element of “things falling together” at Ellensburg’s newest restaurant, Cornerstone Pie, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Sprague Street.
For instance, the construction of the new restaurant happened to coincide with the demolition of the old hospital building on Third Avenue.
“A lot of old hospital stuff is in use here,” said Mark Holloway, owner of Cornerstone with his wife, Donna Malek.
Customers walk through the main entry by pushing open the doors from the old hospital building. The glass in the doors has been replaced to meet modern safety glass standards, but the glass around the door is original from the hospital building.
Customers also will notice a unique piece of lighting in the kitchen’s food preparation area — the large surgical light from the hospital has been installed.
A more substantive piece of luck and timing (at least from the food standpoint) was the availability of chef K.C. Camarillo to take the job at Cornerstone. Several years ago Holloway said he bounced ideas for a pizza restaurant off Camarillo when he was the main chef for Central Washington University food services. Camarillo eventually left the community to work elsewhere but was looking to come back.
“It’s just lucky timing,” Holloway said. “He was looking to come back at the time I was starting the restaurant.”
There is even a connection with the lot itself. Holloway and Malek lived for eight years in the house that was once on the lot.
But don’t be lulled into thinking everything just kind of fell into place through random happenstance. Cornerstone is a realization of several years of research by Holloway and Malek, who are best known as the owners of D&M Coffee.
“We’ve been researching this for five years,” Malek said. “We like to put a lot of research into every thing we do.”
What Ellensburg needs
Malek said they created Cornerstone to be like places they enjoy stopping at when they are on the road.
“Ellensburg needed a place like this,” Malek said. “It needed a place a little bit different.”
At the center of Cornerstone is an 8,000-pound Wood Stone oven manufactured in Bellingham. Holloway said a big crane brought in to install the oven wasn’t big enough, requiring the use of an even bigger crane.
The oven can be heated by wood or gas. Holloway said they thought about using wood, but due to technical requirements with a commercial kitchen, opted for gas. He said wood planks will be used for cooking some items to add flavor.
The oven takes three days to heat up so Holloway said it will be turned down at night, but not off.
Holloway said there is a learning curve when it comes to using the stove. The kitchen staff visited the headquarters of Wood Stone Corporation in Bellingham to go over details with the company’s in-house chef.
Holloway said the style of pizza is Northwest Neapolitan.
“It’s all fresh ingredients, as local as possible,” Holloway said.
The menu features 11 variations of pizza, appetizers, salads, grinders and desserts.
On the beverage side there is as lengthy wine list and nine beers on tap.
Holloway said as the restaurant gets going, there may be some changes. He said chef Camarillo wants to add a kids menu.
Also, espresso will be added. Holloway said once that is installed, the business will be open morning hours for the coffee crowd.