Editor’s Note: this article was first published in the March edition of Iredell Free News Monthly.
By JAIME GATTON
The Mooresville Scoop
Combining two of Mooresville’s oldest, most treasured downtown businesses and families under one roof has reunited a small, “old town” community of people.
And it feels like home, they say.
Near the town’s historic Mill Village, far from the traffic and noise of the western part of town, lies one of Mooresville’s best-kept secrets. Folks passing by Shop N Save Markets at 1105 Mecklenburg Highway may mistake it for an unassuming gas station. But any Mooresville native will agree: that building has for years boasted “the best steaks in Mooresville.”
Years ago, a group of old men would often congregate in front of Shop N Save, smoking cigarettes, gabbing about who-knows-what and fighting over a seat on the bench outside the store’s front doors, said Eddie Dingler. He and his sister, Penny, inherited Shop N Save in 2006, following the death of their dad, who purchased it in 1978.
A short trip up Main Street, Tim Whitener and his family were slingin’ dough at Pie In The Sky Pizza, greeting folks, usually by name, as they walked through the door of the popular, local pizzeria. The business was often swarming with people on weekday lunch breaks, after the Downtown Mooresville Christmas parade and before Friday night Mooresville High School Football games.
But time changes things.
The bench outside Shop N Save still hosts the occasional smoker or two. But the men who used to gather there have all passed away. Tim Whitener hung up his pizza peel about a decade ago, handing the family business to his kids, Daniel and Ashley.
It was a palpably sad day in Downtown Mooresville when Pie in the Sky — serving Mooresville since 1986 — closed its doors last May once property owners decided to update the Main Street building in which Pie was situated.
The Dingler and Whitener siblings are second cousins: Daniel and Ashley’s grandmother is Eddie and Penny’s aunt. Pie in the Sky has long maintained a partnership with Shop N Save for its meat orders. But when Tim decided to retire, he reached out to Eddie for a little extra help.
“Tim had been making and freezing his own sausage and meatballs — sometimes ordering 90-100 pounds of meat at a time,” Eddie recalled. “He didn’t want to put that burden on his kids, so he came in and gave me his recipes and taught me how to make his meatballs and sausage — ground and links — so I started making that for them.” (Fun fact: you can now find Tim — after “retiring” from Pie — working alongside Eddie in the Shop N Save butcher shop.)
Interestingly, just before Covid, Shop N Save had started working on expanding its business to include a small food-service area. “We had the equipment and set the store up for it, but Covid put such a demand on the store and staff,” said Eddie. “The mass food chain failed. Our system never failed, and we never ran out of anything, but it caused us to take our attention off of food service and put it back on the market.”
In hindsight, it almost seems like destiny.
Daniel was aware for a while, even before the move, that Pie in the Sky would eventually need to find another home. “We knew we weren’t going to leave downtown, so we had already started pursuing options because we didn’t want to be blindsided,” he said.
The vacant Kim’s Cleaners building at 250 S. Main St. had caught his eye, and in January 2022 — four months before leaving Pie’s original home — he met with those property owners. Still, nothing was decided so Pie had nowhere to go when it packed up and left its original home.
Then the magic happened.
“We had always talked about maybe doing a little bit of something together down the road,” Eddie said. “We knew they were down to the wire and were running out of options.” And Shop N Save, after all, had all that brand-spankin’-new food-service equipment just sitting there unused …
It was a happy day in Downtown Mooresville when Pie in the Sky and Shop N Save announced they’d be working together, under the same roof, to allow Pie to re-open, offering their community-favorite pizzas and subs, now including daily grab-and-go slices. And now, instead of making sausage and moving it from one location to another, Shop N Save grinds it directly into pans for Pie. “They grind it right into the pan, and we cook it and put it right onto our pizzas,” Daniel said.
Main Street businesses like Murto Made Distillery Mooresville and On Tap have also invited Pie in the Sky’s mobile pizza oven to set up and serve food outside their establishments. “They’ve been so good to us,” Daniel said.
Meanwhile, Daniel signed a lease on the former Kim’s Cleaners building in August. Demolition is complete, and he is now waiting on permits to start building. He hopes the new Pie in the Sky will open on May 22 — one year from the date it moved from its original location — or June 10, which will mark Pie’s 37th anniversary.
He said Pie in the Sky will likely stay open “in some capacity” at Shop N Save, but he hasn’t decided yet what that will look like once the new location — featuring four ovens that can make 24 large pizzas at a time — is open.
But above all, he said, “we thank Shop N Save from the bottom of our hearts for letting us come here and keep our name out there. They welcomed us in and didn’t want much at all for it.”
He said the two businesses work so well together because they operate so similarly. “It’s a country attitude,” he said. “When people walk in, all they have to say is ‘we’re here.’ I may not even know their name, but from then on, they’re ours. We know them, and they know who’s making their pizzas.”
Eddie and Daniel say both staffs worry about being in each other’s way, but that actually hasn’t been the case at all. In fact, Eddie says he feels like, together, they’ve brought their own family — and a much bigger one — together.
“It’s almost like we joined two old Mooresvilles back together again,” he said. “I see old-Mooresville people now from Pie in the Sky that I haven’t seen in forever. It’s pretty neat that we kinda combined and pulled everyone back together.”
(For a list of places in Mooresville that carry paper copies of Iredell Free News Monthly, click here.)