Cook, a native of McDowell County and owner of the Pizza Factory in
Welch, has faith in her community.
Wednesday evenings the entire restaurant and the porch are full of people and
children playing, waiting to go to church, and I think that’s what McDowell County was about,” said Cook.
“I so long to see that happen again, and I
think we’re doing that one day at a time at Pizza Factory,” she said.
people feel like they’re coming home.”
her husband Steve came home to McDowell County after several years in Tennessee, when their son and daughter were
still very young.
said that’s it! I took a $40,000 dollar a year pay-cut to come home,” she said.
more important to me that my children grow up and know what ethics and morals
are, that they know how to help people, and learn how to give of themselves.”
“So we did,
we moved back. We’ve been back 15 years and honestly, we could go anywhere we
wanted to go, but there’s no place I even like to visit anymore, I just love
worked for 20 years in the health care field, including the last 5 years in
hospice work. Now she’s spending 12-15 hours a day at the Pizza Factory. The
stylishly-hip restaurant with covered outdoor porch serves pizza made-from-scratch,
with only the freshest ingredients.
Cook says she
started this business with her family last summer, wanting to help turn things
around in the community she loves. She says it’s her family’s opportunity to
talk with neighbors, offer support, even counseling.
she thinks of it as a ministry.
media and all the coverage you hear now is on addiction and poverty, but you
know there’s still a remnant of people that really are quality folks,” said
have good people here, we still have people who work every day, and what I do
see is some of those people drawing in some of the addicted, some of the people
that are struggling with life,” she said.
kind to people turns things around.”
says business is good and they’re expanding.
“I want to
make sure that people realize, yes, we have our issues in the community, but
there are still folks trying and I want to get behind that and endorse that and
that’s what we’re really seeing happen,” she said.
year we’ve grown leaps and bounds, we’ve gone from just my husband, my
daughter, and my son, until now we have 7 employees and we’re looking to hire 4
more for the summer.”
Michelle has great compassion for those who struggle, she also takes a hard
line on personal responsibility and finding one’s own way to a better,
we can blame it on a physician, we can blame it on an epidemic, we can blame it
on whatever, but it’s personal decisions,” said Cook.
in our county has gone to being poor. And that gets attention, it gets free
things, and I think we’ve just lost our sense of ‘pick yourself up, dust
yourself off and get back at it,’” she said.
the more attention and the more benefits you get when you’re on the bottom,
only keeps you on the bottom.”
“But I just
refuse to believe this is how McDowell County goes down,” said Cook. “I just know
it can turn around. And I want to be in that first group of people that says we
can turn this thing around. We really can.”
Factory will celebrate its first anniversary over the 4th of July
holiday. Michelle says they’re already booked with reservations.