There is a new restaurant in town, serving up gourmet pizzas and other delicious offerings made from scratch. Iron Forge Pizza officially opened in Merrickville in November, weeks before the second COVID-19 shutdown. Owner, Shaw Knelsen, says that, after running their first location in Winchester for just over 2 years, he felt opening another location in Merrickville was the perfect fit. “That was my number one pick for a town, really. Merrickville is amazing and full of artists,” Shaw says adding that, as an artist himself, “All the creatives that kind of congregate and live in that community makes it a really amazing place.”
Shaw has worked in the restaurant industry for many years, and part of his reasoning for opening up his own pizza place was being able to offer customers quality, healthy, and fresh food. He has worked for several chain restaurants in the past, and didn’t always feel good about what he was serving customers. “I personally like to eat healthy, so when you’re taking something frozen out of a box and frying it up, you probably shouldn’t eat like that every day.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic was a concern in opening the second location, Shaw says it actually helped him acquire the space for the restaurant at 206 Main Street West. “We were trying to purchase the building, but we couldn’t. And then, because of the pandemic, the owners of the building decided to rent it.”
Shaw has put a lot of hard work into making the new location work as a gourmet pizza shop and scratch kitchen. He built an entirely new kitchen on the side of the building, and also redid the dining room to improve the look and feel of the restaurant. “It’s the nicest kitchen I’ve ever worked in.”
The focus at Iron Forge Pizza is great food made from scratch, with fresh, local ingredients. Shaw sources as many of his ingredients locally as possible, including custom potato buns from Simply Baked, meat from Greg’s Quality Meat, and eggs from Beking’s Poultry Farm. “It’s just better, organic free-range [eggs], you can see there’s a clear difference. Everything looks healthier.”
Like many small business owners, Shaw was afraid that his business would be forced to close during the second COVID-19 shutdown. However, since they already had a business model that included a lot of take out and delivery, his business hasn’t suffered like so many others in the industry. “[The pandemic] ruins all kinds of lives, especially with straight restaurants with no delivery set up. My shop is, at its core, a pizza shop. It is a scratch kitchen and it does have a restaurant side, we’re licensed and all of that, but at it’s core, and where most of my experience is from, is pizza delivery places.”
Shaw’s goal is for Iron Forge Pizza to become a valued member of the Merrickville-Wolford community. He has already been in touch with the Merrickville Artist’s Guild to have some of their art displayed on the walls in the restaurant, and he is also hoping to set up a small area where local artisans will have a place to sell their creations. “The reason why I created this concept was to feel better about what I was doing. It brings power to the people around me. It’s about their business, and their ideas, and it elevates them in their lives. It’s a good synergy, you know, to put those roots down, and it helps those around you.”
Iron Forge Pizza makes their pizzas with a signature sourdough crust, with many unique toppings to choose from. They also offer other options, like fresh salads, wraps made with homemade pita, poutine, and appetizers like deep fried pickles. They are open daily for take out and delivery within 20km, and you can reach them at 613-269-1234.