By Natalie Simms
Since news of the Jan. 9 fire that destroyed the Pizza Farm restaurant, Rockmart has rallied together to help the owners and employees of the beloved Polk County landmark at 734 Knox Mountain Road. Over the last two weeks, some $19,000 and counting has been raised for the Sanders family and their 25 employees.
“We are truly humbled by the unmeasurable outpouring of love that has been shown to each and every one of us over the past few days! Our little community is flooded with people who carry a torch to light the darkest days,” posted Amanda Sanders, wife of Pizza Farm owner Tommy Sanders, on her Facebook page.
Cedarstream Co., a custom screen printing and embroidery based in Cedartown, quickly mobilized to help raise money for restaurant employees.
“When I woke up that Saturday and saw the news, I just thought about those poor employees…so many of them depend on tips and are now immediately out of job. I just wanted to do something for the employees,” says Jenny Burch, vice president of marketing at Cedarstream.
“So, when I got to the office on Monday, we designed a shirt…Pizza Farm Strong with their logo. Then we set up a web store to take orders for shirts and hoodies and posted on social media. It was unbelievable the support we got…raised about $7,500 in the first 12 hours.”
Cedarstream is offering short-sleeve and long-sleeve shirts in prices ranging from $18 to $22. They originally had hoodies for salel as well but those have quickly sold out. As of Friday, more than 1,800 shirts had been sold.
“It has been crazy the support we’ve received from all over. So many people love the Pizza Farm. We’ve had orders from all over the country…Wisconsin, Texas, South Carolina and Florida,” says Burch. “So far, we have raised over $18,000 for the employees and we still have a week to go.” (That total topped $19,000 over the weekend).
Shirts can still be ordered this week. The deadline is midnight this Friday, Jan. 29. Shirts can be mailed or picked up locally. Click here to order.
Cedarstream delivered the first check to Sanders last week for $7,561.50. A second check was delivered on Friday totaling $8,588 and a third check will be issued after all sales are finalized on Jan. 29.
“We print all shirts in house and our staff was ready to help. It has just been unbelievable to see the support. It really makes me appreciate living in a small town and the way the community comes together to help each other,” says Burch.
Amanda Sanders posted this response to Facebook, “The Cedarstream ‘family’ has selflessly reached out to help support our servers, realizing their lives will be tremendously affected by the loss of income. A simple ‘thank you’ isn’t adequate enough, but know that you are remarkable and so very much appreciated.”
Meanwhile, donations also are being accepted at Century Bank of Rockmart for employees. Family friend Chris Hindmon helped the Sanders family set up the account and has been working to raise funds.
“I live near the Pizza Farm and am also retired from fire service. When our power went out that night (of the fire), I went out to hook up our generator and saw all the trucks and smoke. I went to go help and helped with the engine pumps,” he says.
“There are now 25 people without a job. I had the idea that if 1,000 people gave $10 a week that could help Tommy (Sanders) cover payroll for a little while. So we got an account opened for the employees to help provide some support for the first few weeks until employees can find something else.”
You can donate to the “Pizza Farm Special Fund” at Century Bank of Rockmart.
The cause of fire of that gutted the nearly 50-year-old restaurant continues to be investigated by the State Fire Marshal and the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office, according to Polk County Fire Chief Randy Lacey.
“The State Fire Marshal has been here but because of all the tin in the building, they will have to get some heavy equipment in to lift up debris so they can complete the investigation,” says Lacey. “So, it is still under investigation and will probably be a couple more weeks.”
As for the future of the Pizza Farm, members of the Sanders family have shared publicly on Facebook that the family plans to rebuild the restaurant, although there has been no official comment from Tommy Sanders. Hometown Headlines reached out to Sanders this week and he responded, “I want to give you a statement, however, I am not ready now. I hope to be able next week.”
His wife did share this on Facebook on Jan. 12, “Just like so many reading this, I have made several attempts to put my thoughts and feelings into words but I just can’t. There are no words to adequately describe the loss, the helplessness, and the numbness that overtake someone as they are forced to slowly watch their entire life’s work go up in flames.
“Tommy built a business, not for himself, but for his family. He poured his heart and soul into building a business that would not only provide for his family, but also the families and individuals he employed. We all have a God given gift. Many go through their entire life and never realize what they were called to do. I firmly believe that Tommy’s is service. The Pizza Farm does not belong to us. It belongs to God. God has blessed the Pizza Farm because of Tommy’s faithfulness to his calling. To so many, he has been an ‘Angel Unaware’.
“Yes, what we have experienced has been a nightmare, but I firmly believe that God is not finished with Tommy and his service is not over. You will never truly know just how much each and every prayer, post, message, text, call, etc. has meant to us! The outreach of love has put a spark back in his soul.”