Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!
Ask Tamie Wallake to talk about her business The Olive Branch Coffee and Pizzeria and you might expect her to tell you about the delicious food they make with fresh ingredients. You might expect her to brag about how they’re able to prepare fresh subs, custom pizzas and salads in a matter of minutes. You might expect her to mention the relaxing atmosphere and the coffee shop that invites customers to stay.
If that’s what you expect from a conversation with Tamie, you would be wrong.
Instead, her eyes sparkle and her demeanor brightens as she discusses how she and her husband Bryan use this business to help people who need a second chance. The Olive Branch helps people who are recovering from tough breaks and poor life choices that may have resulted in addiction, homelessness or crime.
The story of how this business came to be and of its place in Canal Winchester is actually quite complex and one that is rooted in faith and service to community. Bryan is a real estate broker and Tamie is a former realtor. Together, the pair have a history of building and selling businesses that fill a need, including a golf course, a fitness center, and a construction company. “We have a talent for building businesses but not an eye for growing them. So, after selling the golf course we were looking for a new project. I felt like God wanted me to do a daycare,” she explained.
That’s why they opened Heaven Sent Children’s Academy which employs 35 teachers to care for 200 children. Empty acreage next door to the daycare was beckoning to be filled but the pair weren’t certain what business they should pursue next.
When Bryan came home and announced he wanted to open a pizza shop, she said her reaction was not initially supportive. “What do we know about making pizzas? I thought he was crazy,” she laughed. “But then I started thinking about the good we could do and how we could help people who are struggling because they made bad choices at some point in their lives.”
Those people who are struggling often slip through the cracks, becoming a statistic or sometimes a story on the evening news. But through the daycare, through her sister who is a foster parent, and through the couple’s nonprofit organization called Breaking Chains, she saw firsthand the dire need that many members of the community suffered with every day.
She tells some of those stories – not of statistics – but of real people who couldn’t get ahead even when they tried and who needed a second chance to start their lives anew.
She speaks of a young man who was homeless and who had a felony conviction. A hard worker that no one would hire because of the conviction, he had nowhere to live and a newborn baby. So Tamie and Bryan stepped up to help the young family and learned why it is so easy for people like him to be forgotten. “He was really trying but couldn’t get a job, couldn’t get a place to live because of bad choices he made years before. It’s no wonder people struggle when they can’t get a second chance,” she said.
“I realized I could use this business to help people like him. So I agreed to make pizzas if we could use it to help others and to give back,” she said. Consequently, they donate monthly to two charities including Breaking Chains which assists people coming out of homelessness and drug addiction.
But Tamie and Bryan didn’t want to just make pizzas. They wanted to make excellent pizza with fresh ingredients, quick service and the best customer service in town. They first attended pizza school at Good Fellas in Staten Island, New York. Good Fellas is renowned in the pizza industry for making some of the world’s best pizzas. They teach their students to use the best ingredients to make their dough and sauce from scratch.
Customers can watch their dough pressed and the pizza made before their eyes. It’s slid into a brick oven and baked for 2.5 minutes before coming out piping hot and ready to enjoy.
Signature pizzas include a BBQ Chicken Pizza with sweet bbq sauce, mozzarella/ provolone mix and cheddar cheeses plus chicken, bacon and onion. Diners can also choose from a host of meats, vegetables and cheeses as well as eight sauces to make their own custom pizza. Plus they offer signature subs and salads as well. Vegan and gluten free customers will have no trouble finding delicious options on the menu. They even offer a cauliflower crust.
Many of their ingredients come from a community garden behind the restaurant. Daycare children from Heaven Sent help tend the garden, learning about the how food grows and the importance of worms. “These are city kids and they have a chance to learn about growing food. Plus, what we don’t use here is donated to Heaven Sent so nothing is wasted,” she said.
Open the door to the Olive Branch and you are immediately hit with the divine smell of baking pizzas and melted cheese. The next thing you’ll notice is how prompt, courteous and helpful the staff are at all times. “We focus on customer service. We want the customer to be number one and we want the product to be excellent. We’ve worked to give them a sense of ownership and we are always working on customer service skills. Honestly, we have the cream of the crop here, a great group of kids,” she said of their staff of twenty.
“We are careful not to have too many second chancers here at one time,” she said as she explained how the ownership employees feel in their work extends to helping newcomers learn the Olive Branch way.
In addition, the business offers a coffee shop which serves One Line Coffee, a Columbus business that roasts coffee fresh when it is ordered. They actually offer more flavors than national chain coffee shops and have a peaceful atmosphere for conversation, meetings and quiet reflection. Smoothies, hot chocolate, espresso and frapuccino are a few menu items. Plus there are muffins, homemade cinnamon rolls, breakfast pizza and burritos. Homemade donuts are available Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The business has a distinct area for the pizza restaurant, a quiet area complete with a fireplace for the coffee shop as well as party space for bridal showers, Bible studies and birthday parties. “We literally offer the best of both worlds. We have fast, courteous service but we also have good quality ingredients, good food and a pleasant dining experience,” she said.
With the business approaching its two year anniversary, Tamie and Bryan have one eye on semi-retirement. “We understand that we are good at building businesses but we’re not so good at taking them to the next level and growing them,” she admitted.
That’s why they have engaged their grown sons to take over the Olive Branch. Braden will take over the marketing and Jeff will manage the daily operations. “Jeff has the mindset and the ability to take us to the next level and to do things here, to do things with people that I could never do,” she explained. “I’m at peace with stepping away from the daily work and trusting it with him. And I just know it’s going to be a real blessing for him and for others.”
Tamie and Bryan will take a break to rest before deciding their next move. She looks forward to finding greater balance in her life and to enjoying some freedoms that are hard to achieve when running a business every day. But she remains passionate about the message on their shirts – “It’s not just about the dough. Pizza with a purpose.”
She clearly is devoted to helping people by filling needs in the community and through addressing specialized needs that impact individuals and families. “Being able to do this has been a true blessing for us. Being able to take a break and to come back having found some balance, I think we’ll love it more,” she said with a smile.
The Olive Branch Coffee and Pizzeria is located at 5600 Gender Road in Canal Winchester. Dine in, carry out, request delivery or arrange curbside pickup. Order online, follow them on Facebook or call 614.524.6888.