The loss of Dudley Dough means more than losing a pizza parlor to Roxbury regulars.
They say they’re losing a community resource in the heart of Dudley Square and a singular business based on a premise of economic justice and healthy food.
Launched in 2015, the fair-wage pizza shop will close at the end of the year, according to Bing Broderick, executive director for the nonprofit Haley House, which oversees the shop. While popular, the shop is not breaking even financially, which has put stress on the wider nonprofit organization.
“I don’t think anyone is looking at it as a failure,” said Luther Pinckney, a team leader at Dudley Dough, which is in the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building. “It’s an experiment, and some very good things came out of that, such as skill-building for staff and being in this building at this time of gentrification and change in this community.”
Pitched as “pizza with purpose,” the restaurant offered above-average pay as well as culinary and leadership training.
“There’s a sadness associated with it,” said Carole Walton, a Roxbury resident. “On a daily basis I come in here, and this is how I get my day started, with conversations and warm greetings and good people. I’m going to definitely miss it.”
As it does every day except Friday, the shop on Tuesday provided pizza to dozens of students who took part in an after-school math tutoring program called Pie R Squared. Families frequent game nights on Fridays, as well as events such as Social Justice Mondays and political forums.
“It’s not easy, but I know it’s the right decision,” Broderick said. “Everybody wanted it to work. We all invested a lot of our hearts in it.”
The challenge for Dudley Dough was to support itself, Broderick said. An offshoot of the Haley House, a Boston organization that provides food and housing to low-income residents, the pizza shop attempted to put a social enterprise model into action.
But after an analysis of the business’s operations and trends, the board determined that Haley House could not continue to subsidize the pizza shop without putting in peril its own efforts. Three other restaurants opened in the area around the same time as Dudley Dough and are still operating.
Last year, Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, donated $100,000 to Haley House, specifically for Dudley Dough. Despite the board’s decision, Broderick said, a “significant effort” is being made to support the staff at the shop as they transition to new jobs.
“I like coming to work. It was kind of a shock,” said Royce Terrell, 55, a Dorchester resident who has worked at the restaurant for nearly a year. “I didn’t see it coming. I have to keep working. I’ve got my youngest son in private school.”
He spun dough and took pizzas and chicken wings out of the oven. The shop was empty just before noon and then lines of people streamed in. Some local employees said the food was a bit too healthy for them. But all in all, the consensus was that Dudley Dough was a favorite local haunt.
“I think it’s an incredible business,” said Kieran Collier, 23, as he walked into Dudley Dough. “It’s pretty heartbreaking they’re not turning the profit they need to keep it going.”
Nicole Boulware, a stay-at-home mother and Roxbury resident, couldn’t believe it.
“When they came, it was like the best thing that ever happened,” Boulware said. “Everything is fresh. It’s just so convenient and the kids that come here depend on them.”
Beth Segers, founder of Pie R Squared, said the tutoring program will continue in the lobby of the Bolling Building.
“We’re here because Haley House believed in us and allowed me to design and build a booth so I’d have a base,” Segers said. “We expanded to take over the whole lobby every afternoon. As far as the future, we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to stay put and keep tutoring the kids.”
Kimi Nguyen, 16, walked into Dudley Dough for tutoring on Tuesday, looking forward to an afternoon of learning and a good meal.
“We’re not working on hungry brains,” Nguyen said. “Here it’s like you’re being prepared for college and helped with homework at the same time.”