FAIRFAX – Opening Stone’s Throw Pizza in Fairfax was a homecoming 15 years in the making for Silas Pollitt and Tyler Stratton.
The two have known each other since they were five, growing up together in Fairfax before leaving for school and, ultimately, the restaurant world in some of America’s better known cities.
But after fifteen years apart, with Stratton heading pizza restaurants in New England metropoles like Boston and Cambridge, and with Pollitt working at Whole Foods Market’s flagship store in Austin, the two came home last year to open their restaurant in Fairfax.
“We were both done with the speed of the city,” Pollitt said. “It was time for a reset.”
Stone’s Throw Pizza sits in the former home of the Foothills Bakery, a historic storefront emptying into Fairfax’s busiest crossroads. The location sets it right at the heart of Fairfax’s village area, within a “stone’s throw” of the densest locales in the small Franklin County town.
“Our concept was to be a ‘stone’s throw’ from home,” Stratton said. “We’re going to be where the people are.”
The location sets Stone’s Throw up to be the community space envisioned by its founders, where residents and visitors alike can mingle with promises of periodic live music, craft brews, wines and, most importantly, artisanal pizza.
Pollitt and Stratton explicitly define Stone’s Throw as a “pizza restaurant,” differentiating it from “pizzeria” and “pizza stop.” The label, they say, emphasizes the “craft of pizza” and the experience of dining in at the restaurant, where almost the entire kitchen is in plain view no matter where you sit and where upcycled works of art build out the artisanal pizza restaurant’s sense of modernity.
As for the craft of the pizza, Pollitt and Stratton describe pizza as a canvas of sorts, ripe for the kinds of experiments two veterans of the foods industry can revel in.
“Any good meal that you have at a restaurant can be adapted to be a pizza,” Stratton said.
“Pizza is a blank slate, flavor wise,” Pollitt agreed. “Any plate has its equivalent as a pizza topping.”
With that in mind, the two have crafted a diverse menu, pulling from their personal palates and histories to bring everything from Texas to Korea into their small town restaurant.
More than once their menu includes fresh rosemary, an herb Pollitt said he could find everywhere in the wild during his tenure in Austin.
Another echoes the Korean peninsula by blending kimchi, a cornerstone of Korean cuisine, with glazed pork belly, shaved leeks and egg yolk, anchoring those flavors with a house white sauce and the typical trappings of a pizza.
Other, maybe atypical ingredients appearing on Pollitt’s and Stratton’s menu: coconut bacon, roasted pear, different preserves – “I’ve always had an interest in pickling,” Pollitt said. “It gives me a way to reinterpret an ingredient.” – and an artisanal spread of cheeses.
“There’s just a lot of good things around here, really,” Stratton said. “Cheese. Beer. All of the produce.”
Mixed into the menu are classics like pizza Margherita and the familiar cheese and pepperoni pies.
“We try to take as much of the arrogance out as possible,” Pollitt said. “We have these really cool presentations but still have the basics to fall back on. In that way, we’re very approachable.”
There was a balance behind their menu, Pollitt and Stratton said, with what Stratton called a “breath of hesitation” as they brought a very openly artisanal pizza restaurant into a smaller town.
When they opened Stone’s Throw in November last year, they had no idea how successful they’d be.
“Right out of the gate, we had more people than we expected,” Pollitt said.
“It was literally four times the sales that we had anticipated, and we had some growing pains,” Stratton said. Immediately following their restaurant’s opening, they had to upgrade equipment and practically quadruple their staffing to keep up.
They tell stories of densely packed Saturdays reduced to standing room only in what essentially functions as Fairfax’s only bar, and anecdotally speak of people from not only Fairfax but from across Franklin and Chittenden counties making their pilgrimages to Stone’s Throw.
“I think our story really resonates with Fairfax and with Vermont in general,” Stratton said. “We’re two guys that grew up here… and there’s some sense of pride. Once people figured out we were open, the whole town came out.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think we would just pop – ” Stratton snapped his fingers. “ – like that.”
Not even a year after opening in Fairfax, Pollitt, Stratton and Stone’s Throw brand manager – and Stratton’s wife – Allie Duhamel are planning a second Stone’s Throw Pizza in Richmond.
“The lack of adventurous food isn’t because of the people, I think,” Pollitt said. “I think it was just that there weren’t as many opportunities to open restaurants like this.”
Coming back to Fairfax, the two said, seemed like a natural step after cutting their teeth in bigger cities. “I had a lot of fun,” they both said at the same time, before Stratton added, “but you understand what you don’t have.”
“Maybe I was just smitten by the beauty,” Pollitt hypothesized.
“It’s our hometown,” Stratton said.
Stone’s Throw, according to the two, remains very Fairfax-rooted.
They see it as a community gathering space, filling a gap they saw in their hometown where there wasn’t anywhere “to share a bottle of wine,” and where official communal spaces – like the parklet across the street and the Fairfax Community Center – are still town-led developments.
Much of the staff is made up of high schoolers from the nearby Bellows Free Academy, who Pollitt and Stratton hope might find some inspiration in seeing their fellow Fairfax natives who carved out their own place in the world.
“We got out… and saw the world,” Pollitt said. “Now I’m in my hometown.”
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