Episode 113: Discovering Pizza Madness on Maui

by | Nov 1, 2023

Dive into the savory world of Pizza Madness Maui with Emma Wheatley. Beyond the lip-smacking pizza, there’s a cause that’s stealing hearts. Discover the story behind Maui’s beloved pizzeria and its “Pay it Forward” initiative reshaping community ties.

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A Culinary Journey at Pizza Madness Maui

Nestled in the heart of Maui, this pizzeria isn’t just another eatery. Emma sheds light on their passion for crafting the perfect pizza – sourcing the freshest local ingredients, perfecting age-old recipes, and the atmosphere that echoes Maui’s vibrant spirit. “It’s not just food; it’s an experience,” Emma says.

Making a Difference One Pizza at a Time

But what truly sets Pizza Madness Maui apart is their heartwarming “Pay it Forward” initiative in response to the tragic fires on Maui. With each purchase, patrons have a chance to change someone’s day. It’s more than just a meal; it’s a gesture of community, love, and togetherness. Emma shares touching stories of those impacted, reminding us that sometimes, kindness can indeed come in a slice.

How You Can Be a Part of Their Story

  • Off Island: Can’t visit Maui anytime soon? No worries! Support the cause by sponsoring a pizza through their website, sending love from wherever you are.
  • On Island: Lucky enough to be soaking in the Maui vibes? Drop by, savor their renowned pizzas, and contribute directly to the “Pay it Forward” initiative.

There’s a reason why Pizza Madness Maui stands out, and it’s not just their delectable pizzas. It’s their soul, evident in every slice and every act of kindness. Joining Emma Wheatley today reminded me of the power of community and the taste of genuine goodwill.

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[00:00:00] Announcement: Aloha. Welcome to Hawaii's Best. Here, you'll learn what to know before traveling as we discover Hawaiian culture, local businesses, and the experiences that make Hawaii one of the most incredible places in the world. And now, your host, Brian Murphy.

[00:00:21] Bryan Murphy: Aloha and welcome back to another episode of Hawaii's Best.

[00:00:24] Today's episode has heart, flavor, and a testament. To community strength we're talking with Emma Wheatley from Pizza Madness on the island of Maui in the town of Kihei This episode was recorded shortly after the fires on Maui and we talked about how You can still help support the community through gifting a pizza to the local community.

[00:00:50] Kind of a cool thing. Emma will describe a little bit more about what that program is and how to do that, but we'll also talk about their amazing pizzas and we'll also cover the [00:01:00] efforts during this time of recovery. For the community of Maui and in our conversation today, we'll touch upon how Pizza Madness navigated the challenges post fires, making changes to ensure both their business and the Maui community could heal and grow for their team and for their community, uh, talk about their community first approach, the incredible initiative of providing free pizzas to families, ensuring no one goes hungry during these tough times.

[00:01:30] And we also look Forward to how Pizza Madness envisions its role in the Maui community moving forward in this continued journey of being more than just a pizzeria. So if you're joining for the first time Mahalo for tuning in really appreciate it and in the last couple months We've been spotlighting local businesses and voices on Maui and how they're making a difference and how you can Come alongside and support their businesses and support the community of Maui And I know a lot of people [00:02:00] are visiting Maui again or at least starting to and if you do be sure to check out Pizza Madness and if you're not on island currently You can get inspired by their stories and their amazing dishes at PizzaMadnessMaui.

[00:02:13] com And following them at Pizza Madness Maui on Instagram. Alright, let's get started Let's dive in and let's talk story with Emma from Pizza Madness on Maui

[00:02:33] Emma, thank you so much for your time and coming on today. First question is, how are you doing? How are you holding up right now?

[00:02:40] Emma - Pizza Madness: Yeah. So thanks for having me on. It's still all very somber and eerie just during day to day operations at the restaurant. Yeah. We're trying to check in with staff as much as possible, obviously being a server, a bartender, there's a lot of.

[00:02:55] Repeating the same conversation again with multiple customers. So we're [00:03:00] definitely trying to check in with our staff as much as possible and make sure that they're handling it all okay, because it can become very repetitive and can affect their mental state a lot. So that's probably a focus of mine at the moment with just regards to the restaurant, but yeah, we're all doing good trying to help as much as we can.

[00:03:19] And obviously, you know, that makes you feel good the more you help. But that's, that's basically where we're at. The restaurant's been steady, so that's been good. Just good to keep busy. But yeah, focusing on the staff and their needs is a priority too. And

[00:03:35] Bryan Murphy: each individual person has their own needs and their own processing.

[00:03:40] Um, yeah, I used to lead teams as well and there's a, there's, you know, the team feel and the team unity. How is like the team dynamic collectively right now?

[00:03:53] Emma - Pizza Madness: It's a bit of a mixed bag because we've got some staff that, you know, wear their second job and they're nurses, so [00:04:00] they're doing a lot of volunteering and stuff at the moment, so obviously those people are, you know, a little bit more affected, I suppose, but we do have a pretty tight knit team and a lot of them have worked for us for a long time.

[00:04:13] You know, upwards of a decade or so, so everyone knows each other really well there. Wow.

[00:04:19] Bryan Murphy: Yeah. Where, where's Pizza Madness located for someone who's listening right now, just so they've been on Maui.

[00:04:26] Emma - Pizza Madness: Yeah. On South Kihei Road, there's an Avis out the front of our building and we're just down the road from the vet.

[00:04:31] So 1455 South Kihei Road, just past times, depending what direction you're going in. It's a little bit more in the Northern and about 10 minutes or so from Hualea. Gotcha.

[00:04:41] Bryan Murphy: Okay. Paint us a picture a little bit about, you mentioned how the, the feel is right now and what were things like prior to the fire?

[00:04:52] And what are, what's the climate like right now? Speaking from a business side.

[00:04:57] Emma - Pizza Madness: Man, we were so busy. We've [00:05:00] always been busy. The people that know our restaurant, you know, they used to peak season having wait lists and That sort of stuff. So we were really busy. It was coming towards, you know, coming towards the end of peak season, but Um, we were pumping, you know, everything kicked off, uh, with the fires.

[00:05:17] And then we actually, the day after the fires, we actually had one of the busiest days we've probably had all year. We both had to, both myself and my husband had to sort of jump in the car and race down to help them out because they were, we could just see how they're getting slammed. I don't know if that was a lot of local support that was sort of just rallying or if it was because there were a lot of restaurant closures that, and a lot of power outages that.

[00:05:39] You know, if we were still able to prepare food, I don't, not too sure what the reason for that was, but having said that now we're definitely down probably more than 50 percent on, you know, where we usually sit and there's a ripple effect for that too. Like, we've got the, you know, we have the third party delivery companies that are [00:06:00] obviously feeling the hit with it as well.

[00:06:05] I'm hopeful that with the message that's getting out to, you know, the people in the mainland and probably, you know, even in Australia and stuff, they're all hearing about, Maui really needs the tourism right now. So I'm hopeful that it's going to come back, come back tenfold. And you know, that's also a little bit daunting as well, like we all remember what it was like after COVID as soon as Hawaii opened back up, it was like, it was open, like there was so many people and we still had the short, the, um, occupancy caps.

[00:06:39] So we can only sit, you know. 30 people in a restaurant that usually has the occupancy of 80. So we got hit really hard with that. I'm a little bit scared that that might be the same thing again, but we'll see if maybe there's been some lessons learned. We definitely need, yeah, the tourism to come back for sure.

[00:06:56] Bryan Murphy: Well, I mean, especially the, the. The season we're going in to [00:07:00] with fall kind of a little bit of a dip naturally already. But then looking at November and December, I mean, probably will be slammed,

[00:07:09] Emma - Pizza Madness: you know? Yeah, exactly. I mean, I was talking to one of the resort manager at the Four Seasons the other day and yeah, they're taking all their reservations for, I think he said, October 17 and onwards, but they said that they've got quite a few corporate coming in.

[00:07:22] And the other day, I guess the Grand Mollet, I had about 16 people check in that were. From a corporate group too, so great that there's still that bit of money coming into the economy. Around the island.

[00:07:36] Bryan Murphy: Yeah. Well, give a little history about how Pizza Madness all came to be. It

[00:07:42] Emma - Pizza Madness: actually started in Colorado.

[00:07:44] The previous owner was there and yeah, he started up the Kenyon City Pizza Madness that was pretty successful and then moved over to Hawaii. And about two years ago, my husband and myself and my brother in law purchased it from Kirk, who was the original owner. I basically just got a job [00:08:00] there because I bought a second car and, uh, or I bought a car and so needed a second job.

[00:08:04] That was the reason why I started working there and then COVID happened and my husband's, uh, was a chef at Hillsou at Wileya Beach Resort. So he was furloughed through COVID and just to make some extra money on the side, he just picked up some hours of Pizza Madness and then the owner was like, you know, you guys should buy this place.

[00:08:23] Then, you know, within a year or so, he made us put in a lot of, he called it sweat equity. We put in a lot of effort to, to, to basically be allowed to buy the restaurant from him. It makes sense. Yeah. That was how we bought the restaurant and we never wanted to change anything, you know, it was a well oiled machine and pretty successful and seeing it through COVID, it was pretty successful too.

[00:08:44] Like we have a good takeout program and the locals and stuff look after us really well. So

[00:08:50] Bryan Murphy: yeah, if someone is visiting, like what are some of the, the must try, the must gets, uh, the must gets, yeah, I'll do that in there, the must gets, you know, [00:09:00] you know what I'm saying? Pizza madness.

[00:09:02] Emma - Pizza Madness: We'll put it on the menu

[00:09:07] for the table. So yeah, I mean, well, everyone always said that they're like, what were you paying for? It's just, you know, the dough is made fresh every morning. We make the sauce in house, the pizza sauce in house. We make our ranch in house. It's honestly just a lot of that sort of stuff. The freshness of everything.

[00:09:26] Yeah, the pizzas are, you know, jacked up with so many toppings. I think I weighed one the other day and it was six pounds or so. So home to the six, six pound pizzas. So yeah, you know, you can have a local family that could come in or. You know, a big group that's visiting or something, you know, they, they can see their family of eight and have leftovers for under a hundred bucks or so.

[00:09:49] That's why I've been successful over the years. We're a bit relatable, I suppose, to. A budget, maintaining a budget.

[00:09:56] Bryan Murphy: No, that's important. Yeah. Having that night out too at a local [00:10:00] spot is important, especially within budget. I know it's important for a lot of people. A local friend of ours, Garrett Murrow, who's of, you know, Maui Brewing Company, mentioned something about this pay it forward.

[00:10:13] And that's really what kind of piqued my interest about paying it forward, but through pizzas. Yeah. Uh, you know, I think there's so many ways that people have been giving back to Maui and the community, especially in Lahaina right now, but also now with local businesses across the island. I thought this was a really unique way in which people are giving back.

[00:10:32] So could you describe how that is going and what that is? Yeah. So

[00:10:36] Emma - Pizza Madness: there's a few different things going on at the moment and we all just, like none of it was planned. We just kind of found ourselves in this. But one of the things is there's a lot of restaurants that are doing a pay it forward and it's certainly not, you know, anything we deserve credit for or anything, but basically you can purchase a pizza for somebody else in need.

[00:10:55] So we've just got it on the blackboard that how many pizzas have been purchased and the [00:11:00] server will just, you know, a customer will say, you know, tell me about this pay it forward program. The servers will just let them know that the minimum is 20. They can buy two pizzas for 40 and then the tally goes up an extra two.

[00:11:13] And then when we have a customer that comes in, like yesterday, for instance, there was this cute little family that came in that had a four day old little baby boy. So we were chatting about that. And then it turned out that they were from Lahaina, they lost their homes, their mom had just given birth four days ago, obviously under a lot of stress.

[00:11:31] We're all just kind of. Holding back tears as, as she was explaining the ordeal that they had gone through. And then obviously they were one of the people that we could, you know, see the other side of the pay it forward. So I let them know that, you know, it wasn't our generosity, it was from other customers, but, you know, we want to take care of your food.

[00:11:49] And, and that's how we're sort of doing it. I had a lot of questions from the service, you know, being taken aback by a lot of these stories. And as I was mentioning before about, you know, [00:12:00] checking in with the service mental health, because they're. Talk, having, you know, some pretty gut wrenching conversations with customers multiple times a day.

[00:12:07] So they wanted to sort of do something as well. So this was just a way for them to be able to feel like they're helping a bit too. So that that's happening. And then, um. We had a couple of companies, one in particular, there were nurses in Seattle that reached out and wanted to buy pizzas for the ER nurses here at Murray Memorial.

[00:12:27] So they just said that this is the budget and we're hoping that, you know, you can deliver and pop a card in as well so they know who it's coming from. Once that inquiry came through, I was more than happy to help facilitate it. Also, I usually have a, my son's doesn't have childcare yet because there's just a forever wait list for it, but it gives me a way to be able to, you know, deliver some pizza out to.

[00:12:52] People around the island with also having my kid in tow because I can't really go volunteering and a whole lot right now. So that kind of [00:13:00] spiked the idea of hitting up a few other companies on the mainland and having them purchase pizzas for some of their Maui colleagues. There was a rental car company that obviously, you know, for a good chunk there, a lot of the rental car companies were just, you know, taking back all the cars, parking them at the airport and probably seeing them all out there.

[00:13:21] So they were thinking, you know, that all of our employees are working a lot at the moment. So let's buy them pizzas for lunch. So that was one thing we were able to help facilitate. Then we had those two rental car companies that did that actually. And so I started just trying to promo that a little bit and just trying to reach out to some companies on the mainland that have a Maui base and just letting them know that their employees might still be, you know, doing their regular nine to five, but they're probably on the weekends volunteering.

[00:13:50] So. If you're interested in buying them lunch, let me know, let me know the budget, the location and I'll make sure the pizza get delivered and pop a card in there so they know who it's [00:14:00] from. So again, like with the ripple effect of that, it's, it, it's bringing some mainland money back over to the island.

[00:14:08] We're lucky enough to have not had to cut any of our employees hours. In fact, we did the opposite. We ended up, we were able to bring on some, um, restaurant cleaners. So. It just helps to kind of keep sort of that money flowing through the restaurant so we can keep everyone employed, keep them off unemployment and yeah, basically just make sure that they're looked after too.

[00:14:30] So there's that and then we also had a restaurant or a pizzeria in Colorado. They've got, they're called Walter's 303. I believe there's one in Uptown, but they have four different locations throughout Colorado. And they actually just out of the blue, just contacted us and said that they wanted to donate 4, 000 worth of pizzas to whoever we deem, you know, to be.

[00:14:53] So yeah, they donated 4, 000 to our restaurant. We've been able to, since then, we dropped out pizzas [00:15:00] to 90 kids out in, um, the Peely Park. It's sort of the makeshift childcare facility they've got out there. And I want to try and continue that on and maybe do it every Friday for, you know, while they're there.

[00:15:10] So they know that every Friday they all get pizzas, but they're that. And then there's a couple of other things that we've been able to do with that, but, you know, it's a bit of a marathon, this whole situation rather than a sprint. So if we can keep helping people for. A little bit longer down the road when the novelty of volunteering tends to wear off.

[00:15:29] Yeah. Then that's the goal. So there's 4, 000. So there's a, you know, we've got a spreadsheet between us and the owner. So I'll note on there whenever a donation has been made. And then obviously, you know, it gives them a shout out whenever I can, because it's very kind of them. Yeah. So there's a few different things that we've got going on.

[00:15:45] And obviously, if it, if it helps us generate a bit of business, then it ultimately helps us. Stop. And then if it, you know, if the money's going somewhere to a good foundation, then, cause we know there's a few dodgy ones around, then that helps [00:16:00] too. So, so that's sort of what we've, what we've got on the go at the moment.

[00:16:04] All ideas from other businesses and stuff, nothing that like, again, that we can take credit for. Just if we're one extra person as a source for something, you know, then it helps.

[00:16:15] Bryan Murphy: Awesome. So, I mean, someone's off island listening to this on the continental U. S. or in Australia or wherever. Are they able to participate in this and if so, how?

[00:16:28] Emma - Pizza Madness: Yeah, for sure. So I've just been promoing it on Instagram. That's probably the easiest way, but a lot of people have just been either calling the restaurant and just paying with their credit card over the phone or they've been emailing me directly or just, yeah, the easiest way is just DM through Instagram and then I'll start the process of, you know, letting you know how and what and when and everything, but basically just reach out to me via Instagram.

[00:16:54] Let me know what you're thinking, like I want to deliver pizzas, I want to have pizzas [00:17:00] delivered to my colleagues this Friday around 12 p. m. Let me know how many people it's for, I'll let you know a good amount to purchase and then I'll just take payment over the phone with a credit card. Yeah, I'll take care of everything else and if I can snap a photo somewhere along the lines, then I will and I'll send it over to you.

[00:17:17] Um, whatever you need me to do to get pizzas to your colleagues, we'll get them there. We'll figure it out.

[00:17:25] Bryan Murphy: That's awesome. And in the Instagram is pizza madness Maui. So that's pretty easy for people to yeah. Pizza madness. Okay. Shifting gears a little bit and. The topic of when you mentioned a little bit earlier about when travel kind of reopened after covid and now today thinking about that term responsible tourism traveling with aloha whatever you want to call it or phrase it it's getting brought up even more so now after the Tragedy on Maui, uh, just [00:18:00] curious from, I know it's a big question, but it's something I'm just wanting to get as many perspectives and definitions to try to compile and define what responsible tourism actually looks like.

[00:18:14] How would you define that? What are, what are some ways that you see as being a responsible traveler?

[00:18:21] Emma - Pizza Madness: So I love the fact that everyone's talking about responsible tourism now, because. It's something that will hopefully stick and maybe shift in people's minds a little bit that, yeah, come and enjoy everything here, but just give back as well.

[00:18:36] So, to say to anybody that's listening now and wanting to come over to Maui, please come. Like, we, we need it so much for a place that has been built on tourism and have it just sort of ripped out from underneath you. We're delayed in bringing tourism back, it's just going to, going to take twice as long to, to fix that, [00:19:00] you know, still obviously calm.

[00:19:01] The beaches are so beautiful and clean, um, at the moment. The island looks, yeah, as beautiful as it did during COVID time. So definitely please come and make the most of it. But while you're here, there's so many things that you can do. You know, they do a lot of beach cleanups. There's obviously the Maui Food Bank that always needs volunteers.

[00:19:20] They're homeless shelters and church group that you can easily be a part of. So, like I said, I love the fact that everyone's talking about responsible tourism now because it's something that was probably needed a decade ago, but we definitely still need that tourism dollar coming in. I think it can just be shown with a little bit more aloha.

[00:19:42] Sometimes I suppose, like reach out and find the right resources. You know, what is a great, actually a great program is the humane society. How you borrow a dog for a day, you know, you miss your dog. You miss your pets while you're on vacation. Come borrow one for the day and take it out of the beach.

[00:19:58] They'll give you one that's, you know, [00:20:00] suitable to whatever you got kids with you. They'll give you like a. You know, Labrador or something, something, you know, that is such a great program. And that's something that you can really kind of help alleviate a little bit, the pressure that they're facing over there at the Humane Society.

[00:20:14] And yeah.

[00:20:17] Bryan Murphy: Yeah. That is a really great program, Emma, thank you so much for your time and what you guys are doing. And I think a very unique, practical way in giving back.

[00:20:29] Emma - Pizza Madness: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you for giving me the time to come on and talk about. Some of the stuff that's going on from a small business perspective, anything that's drawing awareness, like what you guys are doing is, is awesome right now.

[00:20:42] So thank you to you guys too.

[00:20:44] Bryan Murphy: Awesome. And just to reiterate how people can get in touch with

[00:20:47] Emma - Pizza Madness: you. So I mean the email address, it's very, it's very difficult. It's pizza man. It's Hawaii. at gmail. com or, um, just jump onto our Instagram and give us a follow those, you know, notifications come [00:21:00] straight up when people message me.

[00:21:01] So,

[00:21:01] Bryan Murphy: right. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time. No, thank

[00:21:05] Emma - Pizza Madness: you. Appreciate

[00:21:05] Bryan Murphy: it. You got it. Thanks again for joining us today. And thank you to Emma for her time and what her and her team are doing for the people on Maui. And I think it was a pretty cool conversation and inspiring and kind of a unique thing in how we can all.

[00:21:23] Give back one pizza at a time. So a few things from my conversation that I took away with Emma were community above all even in the toughest times businesses like Pizza Madness emphasize the importance of Community and taking care of one another and not just taking care of the business. Another thing was The heart of Maui, at its core, Maui is about its people, their spirit, and the unity that stands strong during challenges.

[00:21:54] And I know that has been put to the test. And I just want to put [00:22:00] out good thoughts and continued prayers for the people of Maui as they continue to recover, as their economy continues to... Rebuild and in the uniqueness of West Maui and what that means in navigating tourism and tourism as a whole. For all of Hawaii, what that looks like moving forward sustainably and responsibly.

[00:22:28] So, thank you so much for being a part of that and for a full recap and access to all the resources that we discussed today, head over to hawaiisbesttravel. com slash episode 113. And if you found value in today's conversation, really appreciate it if you follow our show on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

[00:22:46] Every follow, every listen helps to continue to spotlight the best of Hawaii and share these incredible stories. So until next time, be well. Aloha.

[00:22:58] Announcement: Mahalo for [00:23:00] listening to this episode of Hawaii's Best. To stay up to date on future episodes, please subscribe and visit us at Hawaii's BestTravel. com