Our Islands, Our Future

On any given Tuesday night, Flatbread Pizza in Paia is packed with hungry, appreciative diners while funds are being raised for charitable causes. “The benefit nights are hugely profitable for the recipients,” explains Josh Stone, a former professional windsurfer and one of the owners of the popular restaurant. “We’re happy to help and support our community,” said Stone, who also chairs the Maui Charter Commission.

Charity nights at Flatbread date back to 1998 when Jay Gould opened his first restaurant in Amesbury, Mass. According to Josh Stone, as many as 200 residents responded to Gould’s call to build a wood fire pizza oven for the restaurant. “So it became the town’s oven,” Stone said. From there, benefit nights began with school groups and non-profits sharing in the event’s proceeds. Charity nights have become a mainstay at all of Flatbread’s locations on the East Coast from Boston to Maine, on Maui and in Whistler, British Columbia. “We’re happy to connect with and support our community,” Stone said. Starting at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Flatbread donates $3 to the beneficiary for any and every pizza sold on the night. Beneficiaries include local schools, athletic clubs and organizations such as Na Mele O Maui, Women Helping Women, Surfrider Foundation Maui Chapter, Hawaii State Dressage Society and Somos Ohana Nicaragua.

The Paia location employs 52 people, overseeing 145 seats in a 3,400 sq. ft. restaurant. Stone said Flatbread practices the philosophy of founders Jay Gould and John Meehan. “I call them J and J. One of the J and J mottos is there is no VIP,” Stone said, explaining that the business’ goal is to provide tasty pizza and good service to everyone. Stone said as many as 80 percent of new restaurants fail in their first three years, but Flatbread Pizza has thrived from the beginning in November 2006. “You have to be consistent. We tirelessly monitor the quality of service and the food,” Stone said. “We know our food is good, but we’re always checking and we’re always making sure everyone feels welcome here.”