Eco-friendly, community-focused, good food — that’s what Carmanah Pizza has been serving up in Lake Cowichan since January 2017. The Lake is a special corner of Cowichan that’s home to old-growth forests, a meandering river for summertime tubing, mountain trails and freshwater swimming.
Scott and Krystal, owners of Carmanah Pizza, are Lake Cowichan locals, and their business isn’t just serving delicious pizza; it’s supporting their community. They focus on sourcing regional ingredients, hiring local staff and being environmentally responsible. Their boutique pizzeria stocks the classics (pepperoni, cheese, Hawaiian), but they also like to get creative and experiment with new features and ingredients every month — like fruit, nuts and homemade sauces.
Krystal and Scott have put their personal values at the forefront of their business planning, and by doing so, they’ve created their own slice of Cowichan paradise. Here’s Tourism Cowichan’s Question and Answer with Carmanah Pizza about loving where they live, supporting their community and making fresh pizza.
Can you briefly describe Carmanah Pizza?
Scott: We’re a boutique pizza shop — we make most things from scratch, and we don’t cut corners. We make our own sauces, we make our own dough, we basically came up with all our own recipes, and it works.
Krystal: We source everything that we can locally as much as possible — we try and support other local small businesses. We get a lot of our sausage from a butcher right here in Lake Cowichan. Our chicken is from a free-range farm in Cobble Hill. We definitely try and support local.
We have a West Coast feel to our pizza place. There are no TVs; we’re here to interact with each other and talk to each other. When people come through the door I want them to feel like they’re at home, I want them to feel like we’re authentically west coast and we’re here to relax.
What are your pizzas like?
Scott: We have lots of vegetarian options; Krystal is vegetarian, so we have a very good menu for both the meat-eaters and vegetarians alike. We’ve managed to have a new feature pizza pretty much every month since opened, and many people look forward to that as well. We haven’t run out of ideas yet.
Krystal: We have a pretty diverse menu. We have our regular pepperoni pizza, our Hawaiian pizza, but we have a lot of things that are really different. We put apples on pizza, and pears, and pecans, and that kind of stuff that you wouldn’t generally put on pizza.
What made you want to open the restaurant in Lake Cowichan?
Krystal: We live here. It just makes sense. I wouldn’t feel right about opening a business in a community where I don’t live, that I don’t support. I’ve always been a big advocate for shopping local. I strongly feel that you need to support all aspects of your community as much as you can because if you don’t, local businesses will not be here.
Scott: When we opened, we did see a market for unique or boutique pizza place that Lake Cowichan didn’t have at the time. And we got a very warm reception from everyone in town, so it worked out well.
What do you like the most about living and working in Lake Cowichan?
Krystal: The forest. It suits our lifestyle.
Scott: Yeah, for me, it’s probably the wilderness as well. I like to get out and explore and build trails in the mountains. The lake is nice too for swimming and paddle boarding in the summer. It’s nice. We’re getting mountain bike trails going with the Cowichan Lake Trail Blazers. Now we have a land-use agreement for a big chunk of area out here to put in legit mountain bike trails.
Krystal: I feel like we are a good resource place for people. Especially for people who are looking maybe some back roads or some biking trails. I feel like we’re a good resource for people to come and hop in.
Something for people to know when they come here is to pack it in, pack it out. Come and enjoy our beaches, enjoy our forest, enjoy our trails, but be respectful and look after the environment.
What’s the story behind the name for Carmanah Pizza?
Krystal: It comes from the Carmanah Valley. Before we had this place and we had more free time on the weekends and in the evenings, we liked to go out there and go hiking and go to the river and just be out there. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful it’s one of our favourite places, so we wanted to pay homage to that. And also bring a bit more awareness to it too. Many people ask, ‘What does the name mean?’, so it allows us to explain what it is, where it is, and send more people out there to check it out and hopefully just respect it.
How does Carmanah Pizza fit into the community of Lake Cowichan?
Krystal: We’re never opposed to giving a person their first job. We’ve hired many young kids who have never had a job before, and we take on the responsibility of training them and teaching them their work ethic and all that kinds of stuff. My kids both grew up here, and somebody had to give them their first jobs, so I want to pay that back. We always employ local people.
We do a scholarship to the school every year —I think it’s essential to support your local schools in your community. And we like to support local causes.
Why do you think it’s important, as a business owner, to be part of the community?
Krystal: I think it’s important for people in the community to see you, to know that you shop here, that you support the local causes, that you’re one of them — we’re not just somebody from out of town that came in opened and business. I really think it’s essential for our community to know us and to see us here.
How does sustainability factor into your business?
Scott: We have very little garbage here, thanks to Krystal. She recycles everything she possibly can, and we compost. We have one garbage bag every two weeks for this whole restaurant. We banned straws before they were banned! Krystal, she drives that. It’s very dear to her heart.
Krystal: We don’t give anything to our customers that goes in the garbage; everything that goes out to our customers is either compostable or recyclable. We use eco-friendly products as much as we can for cleaning.
It’s the nice part of owning the business — those things that are important to you, you make them happen.
Having you been doing anything differently to weather the Covid storm?
Krystal: We are following the public health orders. We don’t have a huge amount of eat-in. We were primarily take-out before Covid any way, so it was an easy transition. We’ve shifted a few things to offer prepayment for deliveries, so we can just leave it at your door, and there’s no contact.
Scott: We decided for less exposure that we’d be open at 3 rather than at lunch, and it just kind of worked. So we decided to have fewer hours. I’ve seen that with many businesses, it seems that they’re open less than they used to be.