Updated: Future for Damgoode Pies in Fayetteville uncertain after Little Rock closures

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer staff

Update: Owner Bill Karsten reached out today (Dec. 19) to say he plans to try and keep the Fayetteville restaurant open. The current location is still for lease, and Karsten says if the landlord is able to find a new tenant, he will vacate the current space. He is actively seeking a new location to keep the restaurant alive, however. “There may be some downtime in 2024, but we are going to try and grind it out and find a new location to keep Damgoode alive,” he said.

A Fayetteville pizza restaurant’s future is uncertain after its franchisor in Little Rock recently closed the original locations.

Damgoode Pies owner Jeff Trine announced the closure of his original restaurant in the Hillcrest neighborhood in Little Rock at 2701 Kavanaugh Blvd. in late October before posting a video online to let customers know he would also close his other Little Rock location at 6706 Cantrell Road about a month later. The last Damgoode Pies in Little Rock closed on Nov. 22.

“We have taken on an enormous debt to survive post-covid restaurant life, and I’m not willing to take on any more,” Trine said in the heart-felt video. “More importantly, I am now the father of a nearly 2-year-old girl, and I refuse to miss any more of her childhood in the name of saving the company.”

That left the Fayetteville location, a franchise owned by Bill Karsten and his family at 37 E. Center St., as the sole remaining store for the restaurant.

Over the weekend, a for lease sign was placed in the window of the Fayetteville location, sparking questions online about its future.

Karsten on Tuesday confirmed to the Flyer that the building is indeed for lease, and that his agreement on the space runs through the spring of 2024.

The restaurant, however, will remain open for now.

Karsten said the Covid-19 pandemic, which Trine also cited as a major contributor to the closure of the Little Rock locations, caused a significant drop in sales for the restaurant in 2020, and those sales have never recovered.

The restaurant is currently experiencing its busiest time of the year as customers stop in while they visit the popular Lights of the Ozarks display in downtown Fayetteville, he said, but with the slower winter months in January and February looming, the future of the restaurant after the holidays is up in the air.

“I’m just trying to make it through the now,” he said. “I’m not really sure about the future.”

Damgoode originally opened in Little Rock in 2001, and became a fast hit in Central Arkansas for its “stuffy” pizzas with double-stuffed crust, it’s “pink sauce” with a hint of spice created by mixing its spicy white sauce and marinara, and it’s witty menu, signs, and social media posts.

The restaurant expanded to Fayetteville in the summer of 2009, with franchisee Brendon Maxwell opening in the space formerly home to Hoffbrau just off the downtown square. Karsten purchased the Fayetteville franchise in 2015.