There’s a new food truck coming to town courtesy of the St. Helens Economic Development Corporation’s (SHEDCO) Business Plan Competition, who last Wednesday, April 17, awarded Hallow’s Pizza with $25,000 in the form a grant and zero interest loan.
The public was invited to watch as the four finalists in the competition pitched their business “Shark Tank-style” to a panel of judges at the Columbia River Receptions & Events center at Meriwether Place. Each would-be entrepreneur had to attend a series of business plan workshops to enter the competition, designed to educate each on the process of writing a business plan.
Three other finalists competed for the top prize, including the Wildflower Play Collective, hoping to open a kids’ play space to “let moms take a breath,” Ascending Optics, two would-be drone ambassadors and educators, and Running Dogs Brewery, who pitched an expansion for their current location.
The couple behind Hallow’s, self-proclaimed high school sweethearts Jaime Mason and Erin McCown, said the win was overwhelming. “We’ve talked about doing a pizza concept for literally ten years and we’ve both been in different industries so we’re finally in a spot where we’re able to really pursue this,” Mason said. “We found out about the SHEDCO competition just by happenstance, and I did it really just to formulate my ideas. I never expected to win. I just wanted to have a really good business plan, and I think the SHEDCO competition was really important to making this happen.”
Both are self-employed – McCown as a photographer and Mason as an employee of Grubhub, but both plan to leave those endeavors behind with the start of their new venture. “We want to live and work in St. Helens,” Mason said, with McCown adding they have lived in town for three years, now. “We love it here and this is really where we want to be.”
The couple came up with their name for Hallow’s by taking a cue from Halloweentown. Mason said each of them have had family travel to St. Helens for the October festivities, with McCown’s relatives having come from as far away as New England to witness the event. “The word really means to ‘revere as sacred’ and I’ve loved pizza for as long as I can remember,” Mason said. “If anything is sacred in my life, it’s pizza.”
Mason and McCown took home the grand prize in the form of a $20,000 no interest loan courtesy of local credit unions including Wauna and InRoads, as well as a $5,000 grant from the Columbia River People’s Utility District.
Hallow’s Pizza hopes to be operational by June and will set up shop on Highway 30 alongside other local food trucks at 305 Columbia River Highway.