Two weeks ago, Savage Land Pizza was the site of 6-year-old Hailey Renner’s biggest birthday party ever.
The Spokane Valley girl said she also went there every week with her “papa and grandma.” On Monday, Hailey cried when she saw the Valley landmark restaurant being destroyed by flames on the news.
“That’s sad. That was her favorite place to go,” said her mom, Nicole Renner. “And it was so cheap.”
The fire was discovered about 3:30 a.m. Monday when a passer-by saw flames coming from the business at 700 S. Dishman Road, fire officials said. Investigators think the fire was intentionally started during a burglary.
Damage to the 8,700-square-foot building was estimated at more than $700,000, said Spokane Valley Fire Department Chief Mike Thompson. Fire collapsed the roof in the middle and left a charred shell.
But the business was insured, and the owner’s sister, employee Cindy Veach, said the family plans to rebuild.
“We don’t know how long it’s going to take, but we’re going to do it,” she said. “There are a lot of people that sort of depend on this place.”
Savage Land Pizza has its roots in a restaurant established in Cheney. William Billings, and his wife, Jo Anne – along with his twin brother, R.D. Billings – opened the Savage House Pizza Parlor and Sandwich Shop in Cheney in September 1970. The restaurant got its name from Eastern Washington University’s original mascot, the Savages.
The Billings opened three additional pizza parlors, on North Monroe, in Airway Heights and in Spokane Valley, also in the 1970s.
The Dishman location was the last of the small chain and had changed hands several times before Pamela Veach bought it in September 2006.
The Veach sisters work at the parlor alongside daughters, nieces and nephews.
“It was pretty much a family business,” said Cindy Veach. “It’s the perfect atmosphere to work.”
It was also known for sponsoring athletics, such as youth baseball, and the Spokane Chiefs. And it supported neighborhood schools and the Boys & Girls Club of America.
“This was a fun place to take your kids,” said Spokane Valley resident Leah Dunigan. “Savage Land will be missed. Who knows maybe they will build up another one but it will never be able to regain that same atmosphere and comfort.”
In response to a Spokesman-Review request for readers’ memories about the pizza parlor, Spokane Valley resident Michael Lynch wrote that he liked having a locally owned place that offered something for both him and his kids, who are 9 and younger.
“They provided an atmosphere where adults could talk, watch the game and have dinner all while the children enjoyed themselves,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Hailey’s cousin, 11-year-old Shana Renner, described Savage Land as having “a bunch of toys and good food, and there were a lot of other kids.”