by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – Hardwick’s oldest continuously operating restaurant is transitioning to new owners. The Hardwick House of Pizza was started in 1986 by Artemis and Nick Vasiliadis, who now plan to retire. Michelle and Tyler Demers began partnering with the Vasiliadis’ last April and will take over full operations next April.
The Demers are Hardwick residents with children in both Hazen Union and Hardwick Elementary. Michelle worked at House of Pizza during her own Hazen Union days in the early 2000s.
“It was a good high school job,” she said.
The Demers know the history, loyalty, and appreciation the community has for the thirty-five-year-old restaurant. They have no plans to change any recipes or ingredients. Some new toppings such as banana peppers are available now.
“One of the first things that people say is ‘please don’t change the pizza.’ I’m not going to change the pizza. People love it. Everybody loves the spaghetti, it’s a hit. Everything will be the same,” Michelle Demers said. “We make our own dough every day. A lot of people don’t know that. The dough is made daily, fresh from scratch, and the sauces. We cut our own cheese, slice our own meats, so we’re keeping all of that. We don’t want to change too much, and we don’t want to add too much at one time.”
She said that since the partnership began, they’ve added some new specialty pizzas that “have been a crazy hit,” wings, additional types of beer, and bottled soda. The fountain soda machine is gone to simplify the role of the cashiers so they don’t need to also be filling up drinks. Michelle said that “once the winter lull hits” the two will begin experimenting with some new menu items, such as fried dough.
Other ideas the two are working on include updating the creemee room. Michelle said that “my hope is to have it open year-round with hard ice cream so people can still get dessert when they want to eat out.”
A pre-pandemic tradition the two hope to bring back is recognizing the central role high-school sports plays in the Hardwick community.
“We’re a very sports-oriented family,” she said. “Any championship teams in the future from Hazen will definitely be welcome here. It used to be a place when teams won the championship they would come here after, and Nick would open it up with free pizza for the teams and their families. We want to keep those traditions alive.”
Being an owner of the busy and popular restaurant has proven a steep learning curve, since neither of the Demers have restaurant experience. That was a reason for transitioning ownership over the course of a year.
“Friday nights are insane here,” with the restaurant serving over a hundred large pizzas on a typical Friday night, Michelle said.
The House of Pizza was caught by surprise when earlier this year most every restaurant in the area decided to close on Mondays.
“Even in Morrisville [restaurants] are closed Mondays. So, this summer we got hit really hard on Mondays. Mondays turned into Friday. I think the first Monday it happened, Artemis was here and we had to shut it down because it was just overwhelming. Everybody comes in on Monday, [because] it’s the only place open for miles.”