Suddenly last summer, Whitstable residents watched an empty pet store in the High Street disappear – and a new business selling award-winning craft pizzas materialise in its place. How did that happen?
Let Jon Crwys-Williams tell you himself.
So Jon, what’s Nomad Pizza all about? And why Nomad?
Well, it reflects the fact that my wife Vicki and I have both always been keen travellers – but also that we’ve now brought our very special handmade pizzas all the way from the far South-West to the far South-East. We spent just over five years in a Cornish village, building up a successful locally sourced craft pizza business there. Then we decided to sell up and move back to Kent, where Vicki is from, to be closer to friends and family. We were both teaching when we first arrived, but the pull of pizza was too strong. We saw this pretty little shopfront sitting in Whistable High Street looking sad and forlorn – and here we are!
And then you got some pretty big news?
Just a few months after we opened in 2020, we were judged top pizza takeway business in the entire UK by the Pizza and Pasta Association. PAPA holds a big black-tie affair, mostly for the big guys – chains and supermarkets – but they give out two awards for independents: one restaurant, one takeway. We’d been shortlisted before, while we were in Cornwall, but this time we won. It was an amazing way to launch the business!
Wasn’t this a really challenging time to open a food business?
Well, fortunately, by the time we got planning permission for change of use, we were all primed ready to go and were able to transform the place within just four weeks. People were amazed it happened so fast but that meant we were able to catch the last month of summer 2020, when restrictions were minimal. It was amazingly busy from the start, so our team was thrown in at the deep end but they coped magnificently. After that, word-of-mouth took over and we now have people rolling in all the time saying, “My friend told me to come – they say your pizza is fantastic!”
We also ran a delivery service through the darker months. That stops at Easter, though, because our whole ethos is very much a personal, face-to-face, friendly local business. Even our delivery drivers are part of our own team of local people, an extension of our “front of house”.
Everything about Nomad says, “We don’t try and be a standard takeaway or a traditional pizzeria – we have our own way of doing things that reflects our personality and point of difference.” Once it’s possible again, there will be a few tables inside where people can enjoy a pizza, salad and dessert with a bottle of wine. We don’t charge any huge mark-up on our drinks – and you can take the bottle home with you if there’s any left!
So where did you and Vicki meet?
We met in a pub on the river in London while I was working for a travel company. I’d previously racketed around the world for around a decade, often getting jobs in various aspects of the restaurant business; she specialised in marketing and product development. They turned out to be very much complementary skills when we decided to open a pizza place in Cornwall.
I’d worked in Pizza Express so I thought I had the experience but starting your own place is a steep learning curve and I also learned a lot from Vicki while we were getting the business up and running.
We’re very proud of our old Cornish Pizza Company. We sold it as a going concern and it’s still going strong in St Agnes. But we’ve developed our own ideas and principles further since then here at Nomad, using fresh Kentish produce wherever we can – meat from the local butchers etc – and our team are all local workers.
Why did you decide to leave Cornwall for Kent?
St Agnes is a beautiful village and, like here, people are very proud of their locality and local produce, which is something we believe in very strongly. But Cornwall is very self-contained, very surfer-y, and I discovered I wasn’t quite the outdoorsy person I thought!
I love the country, and the sea, but I also love being able to go a concert, or see top live cricket, rugby or football whenever you fancy it. So moving back to Vicki’s old stamping-ground of Canterbury seemed a great idea. That’s where we still live at the moment – but are looking to buy a home here in Whitstable – if we can afford to!
So how are you finding Whitstable?
Great. The people are lovely and there’s a really vibrant independent business community. It’s fantastic that Whitstable is still a working harbour – but I also appreciate it has a seaside flavour too. It feels like Nomad’s come home!
Nomad Pizza, 76 High Street CT5 1AZ
Open for collection from 5pm seven days a week; delivery service Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays from October to Easter only.