BAYFIELD – After about three years of sitting unused, the old Bayfield Diner building has a new purpose: a pizzeria. Bayfield’s newest restaurant, Eepa’s Pizzeria, officially opened its doors Wednesday, adding long-awaited variety to Bayfield’s food scene.
The restaurant, which serves sandwiches, brick-oven pizzas and more, held a successful soft opening June 14 and 15. During the grand opening, families, residents and people who work in town came out to try the new dining option.
For Melissa and Rob Gaston, the restaurant’s launch is the fruition of a long-held dream that wouldn’t have been possible without help from their families and the Bayfield community.
“I’m honestly a little bit of anxious, a little bit of terror, mostly super excited,” Melissa Gaston said days before the restaurant’s grand opening Wednesday.
Rob Gaston, Melissa’s husband, first caught the pizza bug while spending five years traveling around the world in the Navy. Before and after his time in the military, Rob worked in pizza shops. Even while working at an information technology company, he kept coming back to pizza.
“I couldn’t really find a pizza that I really liked anywhere, so I started making them myself,” Rob said. According to Melissa, he was making brick-oven pizzas all the time, often with neighbors coming over and asking for more.
“I asked him, ‘What is your dream job?’” said Danial Ciluffo, one of Rob’s co-workers at the IT company. “He said, ‘I’d really like to open a pizza shop.’”
One day, the couple was sitting in the park across from the Bayfield Diner, or B Diner, building, when they realized it was for sale. They were ready for a change, and “next thing you knew, we were putting in an offer,” Melissa said.
The Gastons met with the town and received both support and positive feedback, she said. Their reaction encouraged the couple to give it a shot. They’re starting with their kitchen in a food truck, which one day might become a catering truck. They are also going through the liquor license process for an indoor bar, and in the future, they might consider adding onto the restaurant.
The building at 1249 Bayfield Parkway has a long history, at times a diner, gas station or electronics shop. Looking around at the pizza shop the week before its grand opening, Melissa saw something more than white speckled brick walls and wooden tables: She saw community.
“There’s no way. If we didn’t have the other places around town and our family, we could not be here,” she said.
When their contractor disappeared, electricians from K Power were available immediately. They needed their cooling system redone, and Fahrenheit Enterprises did the job in the pouring rain. Melissa’s father put in the flooring; Rob’s father, the paneling. The couple built the benches, and their 4- and 6-year-old children helped mop the floors.
The name “Eepa” came from their son, Tieren, 6. When he was little, he loved pizza but couldn’t say the word, Melissa said. “He’d say, ‘Dad, make me some eepa.’ We didn’t know what else to name it, so it’s Eepa’s Pizzeria.”
According to many in the community, Bayfield needs more restaurant choices. A couple living across the street from the restaurant have watched the Gaston family prepare and are ready for some variety.
“I’ve seen more places leave town than come in,” Jennifer Morelli said, adding that she was glad to see something in the space finally.
“The real question now is how the pizza’s going to be.”
Ryan Howell and Matt Boone, customers at the restaurant, said they came to check out the grand opening in part because they were ready to try something new.
“We’ll definitely be coming back,” Howell said.