Riverfront Pizza opened in Thomas, serving wood-fired pizzas in a spacious-wood-paneled atmosphere complete with bar and pool table. “We’re hoping it’s going to be the Cheers of this area,” said Mary McGowan, who owns the building at 290 Front Street.
At the grand opening, acting mayor of Thomas Jody Flanagan said he had no doubt that vision will come to pass. The barbeque Italian sausage pizza he sampled, he said, was “delicious.” “This place will be packed,” said Flanagan.
Riverfront Pizza is the brainchild of Mary McGowan, who bought the building with her husband, Blaine McVicter, seven years ago. At the time, the couple did not know what they wanted to do with the building, but they knew they wanted to save it from being torn down and give back to the community of Thomas, said McGowan. McGowan, who worked in Washington DC at the time as the CEO of WomenHart Coalition, a national advocacy group for women with heart disease, said she fell in love with the area 20 years ago when she first came to go skiing. But it wasn’t until ten years ago that she met McVicter while walking around the lake at Timberline where McGowan has a home. “I worked in DC and he worked in Martinsburg,” McGowan said. “But every weekend we’d meet here to work on the building. We weren’t sure what it would be,” McGowan continued. They joked about a cannabis shop called “High In The Mountains,” and a bar called “Spirits”– a nod to the building’s history as the old Dunkin Funeral Home.
Tragically, McVicter died of a stroke in March of 2020, just one year shy of seeing his dream with McGowan realized. Driving through Virginia one afternoon shortly after his passing, McGowan stopped at Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane Virginia. The winery, she knew, was dog friendly, and she had a new Golden Retriever puppy, Alaska, riding with her that day. After tasting Barrel Oak’s wood fired pizza, she called over the owner, Daniel Hayes. “I would love to get you in my building in this town called Thomas,” McGowan told him. “Oh I know Thomas,” Hayes said. As it turned out, he owned a cabin not far away. Hayes, who previously worked at Nathan’s in Georgetown before becoming personal chef to the owner of the Redskins, was not looking to open a new restaurant. But he agreed to visit the space anyway, and said he was blown away by the opportunity. “I truly believe Blaine sent him to me,” McGowan said of Hayes.
Riverfront Pizza is open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. A 12-inch classic cheese pizza is 9 dollars, and finishes in about two minutes thanks to the 800 degree Fahrenheit pizza oven that Hayes special-ordered from Italy. The wood to feed the fire, Hayes said, he chops himself at his property in Mineral County.