Mottzarellas plants Granite Quarry roots

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 5, 2024

GRANITE QUARRY — When Shawn and Michelle Mott were laid off from their jobs in early 2020 due to the pandemic, they both decided to be creative and turned their racing trailer into a food truck. On Friday, that food truck, Mottzarellas, held a grand opening for its move into a brick-and-mortar location in downtown Granite Quarry.

“When he came to me at the first of the year and said, ‘I’m ready to get rid of my race car and sell and start a restaurant,’ I knew then that he was serious. He had been saying it all along that he wanted to do it, but I just blew it off because I knew that we couldn’t do both. We couldn’t race and run a restaurant for a year and get it up and going,” said Michelle.

The two had previously run Crown Motorsports, a two-car sprint car racing team based out of Rockwell.

Mottzarellas officially opened for business in the area on Dec. 15, 2020, nine months after Michelle was laid off from her job with PreGel and five months after Shawn was laid off from his job with AT&T and DirecTV. The last day the food truck operated was March 20, 2024, when the family began their move into the Brinkley Center, a plaza located a few blocks down from town hall. Less than a month later on April 10, the restaurant opened up at 128 S. Salisbury Ave.

Shawn said he came up with the idea of pizza because his father ran Dave’s Pizza Shop in New York. When the family moved to central Florida, however, his father had to sell the shop. Shawn and Michelle’s pizza recipes are the result of the two taking his father’s recipes and experimenting with them further.

“We’ve tweaked some things and made them a little bit different, but the base foundation is still there. We just took them and made them a little bit different and it seems to have worked out,” said Shawn.

Once Shawn decided that he wanted to start making pizzas, he asked Michelle to get them a large outside pizza oven so he could start baking pizzas for the family and working on the recipes.

“It did (work out). This idea, making us eat pizzas for a year. Every weekend, he’d invite the whole family over. ‘OK, we’re doing pizza, guys. I’ve got a new pizza idea this weekend,” said Michelle.

“Worked on it until they were done right, which is tough to do at home until you’ve got a true, actual pizza oven,” explained Shawn.

The two weren’t the only ones who thought that the effort on pizza recipes worked out, as Shawn said that one of his favorite parts of running the food truck was people stopping him, telling him how much they enjoyed his food and thanking him for coming to town.

“We would have regulars everywhere we went that would come out to see us. This one lady, when we were at Old Armor (Brewing Company in Kannapolis) a lot, she had my personal cell phone number so she could find out when we were going to be there because they came no matter what,” said Michelle.

The last four years of running a food truck and now a restaurant have been a full family effort, with all three of Michelle’s kids and all three of Shawn’s kids helping out.

“Our youngest is 15 and everyone in the family has helped us,” said Michelle.

“They’ve all worked with us at some point,” Shawn continued. “We’ve got the ones with newborn babies that obviously can’t get away.”

Both Michelle and Shawn described one of Michelle’s daughters, Hayleigh Garrett, as their right hand person in getting the business running smoothly.

Michelle said her aunt and uncle, Marie and Bobby Wagner, were also instrumental in helping start Mottzarellas as investors.

“None of this would have been possible without them. They are big contributors. They’ve had our back from the very beginning,” said Michelle.

On Friday, that family commitment paid off, as the two cut the ribbon surrounded by family, friends, town staff and town officials.

“We think it’s wonderful to see food trucks grow their businesses and convert to that brick-and-mortar and invest in our community here, especially in Granite Quarry. I just want to commend and congratulate them for achieving this. I know they’ve worked hard to get here and we’re glad they chose Granite,” said Mayor Brittany Barnhardt.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony was over, Interim Town Manager Jason Hord and several of the town’s firefighters and police officers made sure to take advantage of the earlier opening time and get their share Michelle and Shawn’s cooking.