By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Sunny South News
After serving the local community for 21 years, Wally’s Pizza in Coaldale is closing. Owners Wally and Hozam Naim are retiring, and will close their restaurant doors next week on April 28.
Those who have worked in the hospitality industry for any length of time know this: The restaurant business is a difficult one and challenging in ways that customers rarely get to see. For a non-franchise establishment, it can be even more so. Independent restaurant owners and managers need a healthy mix of business savvy, people skills, and food expertise. Long hours, stress, budgeting, staffing, cooking, managing inventory, and customer service — these are some of the dynamics that restaurant owners must navigate skillfully to achieve success and longevity.
Wally Naim is the restaurant’s namesake, and he travelled the distance from Lebanon to Canada in search of a better quality of life and financial security for his family. He left his hometown of Kfar Qouq in the Middle East and arrived in Bonnyville, Alberta to join his brother and family in May of 1989. He remained there working at his brother’s restaurant for 10 years, before relocating to Calgary in 1999, where he stayed for two years. In 2001, Wally moved to Coaldale because he heard it was a good place to raise a family. He and Hozam opened their pizza place in April of that year and though it took a couple of years to get established, the restaurant became profitable as their family settled into life in southern Alberta.
Wally and Hozam have three adult children and four grandchildren. He is warm and friendly and emanates hospitality, which undoubtedly has contributed to his success in the foodservice business. Asked about what the benefits of starting and operating his own business have been, he replied, “I like to work for myself with my wife and kids. We like to serve the public and our nice community. And I made enough money to support my family.”
His business has been consistent throughout his years running it, even during the pandemic closures and restrictions. “We still did very good (during COVID). We had delivery and take-out services, but no dine-in,” he said.
Wally’s continued to serve schools, businesses, community groups and parties and they were able to function profitably. Naim credits the Town of Coaldale and its residents for keeping the business afloat during an economic downturn. He also expresses appreciation for the surrounding rural areas and centres like Picture Butte, Raymond, Taber, and Lethbridge for their support.
Upon deciding to move into retirement, Naim tried to sell the business and the rights to the name but didn’t find a buyer. This is surprising, given the good location and good reviews the restaurant has garnered.
“We love each person in the community, and I feel sorry (for closing),” said Naim. “I wish there were someone to take over.” He says that the timing for a sale may have been bad due to pandemic recovery limitations.
Still, he is grateful. “We thank our staff and our community for their support. He wishes everyone the best and says, ‘It was a pleasure serving you!’”
Wally’s Pizza is open until April 28, so there’s still time to stop in, order, say hello, and wish the Naim family the best in their life after hospitality.