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Slice of Renewal
At its new location in Oklahoma City’s Historic Film Exchange District, Joey’s Pizzeria has undergone an aesthetic transformation while holding on to what works.
By KARLIE TIPTON
Published January/February 2012
Any pizza maker worth her weight in dough knows fresh, hearty ingredients are the key to a tasty pie.
However, a truly great developer can attest that the same is true for building a great neighborhood, or rebuilding one, in the case of Oklahoma City’s Historic Film Row on the corner of Lee and Sheridan Avenues, located within the larger Historic Film Exchange District.
Joey’s Pizzeria may prove to be the special ingredient that brings out the flavor of the whole area. Originally opened in 2005, the pie peddlers had previously operated out of a storefront on Northwest Classen Boulevard.
“It was a really quick transition from our old location,” says Irena Avdalovic, Joey’s co-owner. “We closed up on March 31, moved all night long, and opened the new place on April 1.”
Although their move might have been an overnight job, renovating the former film exchange distribution warehouse was no simple task.
“The property was in really bad shape,” says Bradley Wynn, Film Exchange District historian. “I can’t express enough how bad it was.”
The edifice was not much to look at before renovations began back in 2005, thanks to rotting floors, broken windows, and years of built-up mold and grime. But its eighty-five-year history has earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places along with the rest of the district. Like other properties in the area, it was used as a one-stop shop for anything a theater owner might need, from posters to popcorn to reels of the movies themselves.
“That was the first building in the area in 1926,” Wynn says. “Columbia, Paramount, Allied Arts, Monogram Pictures, and 20th Century Fox have all occupied it.”
But a menu of historical achievements was not enough to draw crowds. Property owners knew they needed to bring in a popular edible attraction.
“Tons of people wanted that space, but they hadn’t been a proven commodity,” says Chip Fudge, co-owner of Joey’s and a major Film Row investor. “I’d known Irena for about ten years, and I respect her work ethic and determination. I felt Joey’s would be a great fit.”
Almost half a million dollars and half a year later, the changes to the Film Row area are noticeable.
“Three years ago, people still didn’t want to venture down here because it was kind of a scary place,” says Wynn. “But about six months ago, I remember looking down the street and seeing a line of Mercedes and Lexuses and BMWs. Never in a million years would I have imagined that.”
Despite being the sole proprietor of food and drinks in Film Row, Joey’s has brought in a wave of traffic, thanks in large part to the care Avdalovic gives to her cooking.
“I love cooking,” she says. “I live for people eating my food and saying, ‘Wow, I have to come back.’”
Avdalovic’s culinary passion has inspired a menu of delicious pizzas, unique side items, and the perfect cocktails to go with them.
A diner could make an entire meal out of one of Joey’s most popular pies, the Bianca Neve, which boasts spinach, garlic, feta, mozzarella, Alfredo sauce, and house-smoked bacon. But missing out on lasagna, Italian cream cake, or an ice-cold Moscow Mule—a cocktail made with vodka, ginger beer, and lime—would be a shame.
Thanks to Avdalovic’s take on traditional Italian cuisine, Chip Fudge is not just a co-owner of the restaurant but a frequent patron as well.
“The winter cabbage rolls, the Under the Tuscan Sun pizza, which is the one with an egg right in the middle, and the toasted ravioli covered in Parmesan are just incredible,” he says.
Although Avdalovic says her clientele has grown significantly since the business moved to Film Row, she hopes that her restaurant is the first in a line of eateries to call the neighborhood home.
“I would love to see more restaurants, a coffee shop, a bakery—anything that would create more foot traffic and more competition,” she says.
But Wynn, Fudge, and Avdalovic are convinced that Joey’s is only the beginning for this renewed area.
“It’s not skid row anymore,” Wynn says. “The changes to the Film Exchange District have been dramatic, and we’re just going to keep growing.”
Get There: Get There: Joey’s Pizzeria is located at 700 West Sheridan Avenue in Oklahoma City’s Film Row. Hours are 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. (405) 525-8503 or joeyspizzeriaokc.com.