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The Dough-Raising Kanes
by Nicole Jovel + photos by Chris Jackson
At a pizza place with the same address as an Irish pub, Greg and Marjorie Kane put their future in pizza, and the pie is definitely still flying.
Right in the heart of the Arts & Entertainment district on Potomac Street in downtown Hagerstown, The Flying Pie Co. is pizza with an upscale bent. It’s no Pizza Hut, according to owner Greg Kane. Instead he considers it a taste of the West Coast wood-fired pies brought to the East Coast because of his self-proclaimed “obsession with pizza in general — where it came from, where it’s going, and everything in between.”
It was an unexpected phone call three years ago that his wife and co-owner Marjorie considers the catalyst to becoming restaurateurs. “Greg was working in management, neither one of us had any restaurant experience, but then we got a phone call one day while we were on vacation in Florida that his company was going under and he wouldn’t have a job to come back to,” she recalls. When they got back to town, it was their real estate agent who suggested they think outside the box on what to do next. And that’s when they found a pizza shop for sale on Robinwood Drive. “We took a look at the place and said, ‘let’s go for it.’ We were terrified,” says Marjorie. Called the Flying Pie Express, Marjorie says it’s a tribute to the pizza she grew up enjoying on the Jersey Shore. “It’s the kind of pizza you fold in half to eat,” she says. “It’s also where the name came from. When you order a pizza in Jersey they call it a pie and when pizza dough is tossed in the air, it’s a flying pie.”
Although the Express location is a success in it’s own right, Greg and Marjorie had grander plans, especially after attending the International Pizza Expo in Vegas in 2012. “That’s where we fell in love with the wood-fired oven and where the idea was born to evolve our business and bring a wood-fired grill to Hagerstown,” says Marjorie. “A lot of people gasped when they heard we wanted to expand downtown.” Though a native of New Jersey, Marjorie moved to Frederick in 1991 and has watched downtown Frederick evolve. “When I moved to Frederick, it was really in the infancy stages of the development that was occurring, and I really feel like that could happen here. The potential is here,” she says. “Downtown Hagerstown just needs people to say they believe in it and support it, and we do.”
They met with fellow downtowners WORX Graphic Design to develop a marketing plan and concept for their newest downtown venture before they even had a menu. They also enlisted the support of La Rouge Vintage owner Shawn Rosenthal for the décor, which includes repurposed vintage pieces from the M.P. Moller Pipe Organ Company, and artwork made of reclaimed barn flooring by a local artist. “From the beginning we thought about a cohesive experience,” says Marjorie. “We were thoughtful about what our takeout silverware would be or how the spoons would feel in your hand.”
And that attention to detail, from the wood flooring to the tin ceiling, — and let’s not forget the huge brick oven that required the front windows be taken out to get it in the space, and the full bar with a solid rotation of craft beers on tap — creates an inviting sensibility that leaves customers feeling like they are in another place altogether. “We’ve had a nice reception here,” says Greg. “So many people walk in and say they feel like they’re not in Hagerstown anymore. They say, ‘it feels like I’m in a big city.’”
It’s not just the ambiance though. It’s a lovely setting to eat in, but what keeps people coming back to the Flying Pie is the pizza, even if it’s not pizza the way people usually think of it. Be it in the fresh ingredients — nothing from a box or bag goes into their food — or the unique toppings and flavor pairings and homemade aged dough, you can almost taste their passion in their food. “We are reframing in people’s minds what a dining experience can be at a place that serves pizza,” says Marjorie. “We deliver a product that deserves to be savored.”
Though the pizzas all come in the same size, that doesn’t mean they think ‘one size fits all.’ From the Goat Herder topped with goat cheese, spinach, roma tomatoes and red onion to the fan favorite Maui Wowi with ham, pineapple and bacon, the regular menu items are plentiful, not to mention the specials they feature each month. “I look at pizza as artwork,” says Greg, who personally developed the sauce and the dough recipes and cooks about the half the pizzas the restaurant serves. “That’s why I refuse to cut it before it is served. I want you to see the masterpiece first.”
If you’re not in a pizza state of mind, you can also try some delicious soups, salads, appetizers, or sandwiches upstairs, or head downstairs on Friday and Saturday nights when the basement of the Flying Pie opens under the moniker Murphy’s Irish Pub, named in honor of the Kane’s beloved golden retriever. Downstairs you’ll find a good Irish whiskey selection, beer hailing from the UK and imported-style pub food like fish & chips, bangers & mash, and shepherd’s pie, as well as plenty of state-side staples like burgers and oysters.
“We look for an Irish pub wherever we go. Our pub downstairs is an experience we are always seeking when we go out of town,” says Marjorie. “Ours has the original stone walls and it’s down below with no natural lighting so it just feels like a pub.” With Murphy’s own kitchen and full bar, it’s like running two restaurants in the same building on Fridays and Saturdays. “Sometimes when I’m mingling and talking to customers and he’s at the oven we look at each other and think, ‘this is exactly where we should be,’” says Marjorie, “And other times we think, ‘What the hell were we thinking?’ Sometimes we’re still surprised by the leap that we took.”
But no matter how crazy it may feel sometimes, the Kane’s are determined to succeed despite the less that successful track record of prior ventures at this downtown location. “People ask me all the time what the restaurant used to be since the place has changed so many times,” says Marjorie. “If they have kids with them I always tell that that my hope is that there children will always know this place as the Flying Pie.”
Flying Pie Co.
43 S. Potomac St.,
Hagerstown, Md. 21740
Murphy’s Irish Pub