WINTERS, Ca. — This past week marked the 30th anniversary of the Pizza Factory’s establishment in downtown Winters. For three decades, it has provided a warm, safe environment for Winters residents to gather for a fun afternoon and, of course, pizza. It is the go-to spot for many: from local sports teams, after weekend games; to students, in the afternoons after school gets out; to families, on evenings when they just want to relax and have a meal without worrying about who’s doing the dishes.
Even though the Pizza Factory has been a staple in the Winters community, it has faced troubles of its own as a business. When Gabriel Ibarra, the current owner of the Pizza Factory, took over in 2007, he was confronted with the additional fiscal pressures caused by the housing market crash, on top of the already delicate situation of switching management.
For the first three years, Ibarra admitted, he wondered if his restaurant would survive, and if it would even be worth the struggle. But he pulled through, even after the recession and the drought, with the help of the community. Having been a longtime resident of Winters, Ibarra was no stranger to the closeness of the community and the positive impact that businesses like the Pizza Factory can have.
For many longtime residents, the Pizza Factory has become one of the most familiar locales in town, holding memories of team gatherings and family outings. Even those who leave Winters always come around to visit the Pizza Factory when they are back in town. It is less a craving, and more of a sense of nostalgia, that continues to draw people back to that door.
As the business gained traction in the city, Ibarra has shifted his priorities. Over the last few years, Ibarra has become the parent of two twin girls with his wife, Alejandra. Having a family of his own has led him to reevaluate what it means to be a family-oriented business.
Having this new perspective has meant finding different ways to accommodate the community that has supported them all these years. Ibarra likes to have the restaurant participate in any events taking place in town, be it directly or indirectly.
The Pizza Factory is known for providing food at events, or food certificates for raffles or contests. It has also helped many students and teams with fundraising efforts, like capstone projects for graduating high school seniors. The Pizza Factory has even offered itself as a field trip destination for elementary school students, guiding them through the process of putting together their own personal pizzas, and giving behind the scenes tours of the restaurant.
As time goes on, Ibarra hopes to continue to provide the kind of space needed in Winters, a happy and comfortable town to raise a family. Over 30 years of business, challenges are to be expected, but Ibarra is confident that the Pizza Factory will have the privilege of serving Winters for a long time.
Published in the Winters Express by Jennifer Garcia-Montoya.