When Tom and Carol Sheltra opened Pizzalley’s in 1999, they unknowingly laid the foundation for a wildly popular St. Augustine Restaurant lineage. Its catchy name is derived from the previously open St. George Street alleyway that the restaurant now occupies. “When my parents purchased the property, it was a store named Maronel’s Shoes,” says Shane Sheltra. “The shoe store was the first to close in the alley, but the building was a fire hazard when we acquired it. It was in such disarray that we tore everything down and started fresh with an open alley again,” he elaborates.
“My dad first learned to make pizza in Maine, where my family is originally from. Later, he went to Sarasota, Florida and basically traded his labor at a restaurant in exchange for learning recipes and perfecting his skills,” says Sheltra. What resulted is Pizzalley’s unique and popular pizza recipe that has created a pie frenzy in the Old City. “Our recipe is originally from Rochester, New York, but we have customized it to make it our own,” he says.
“When my parents first opened Pizzalley’s, my mom made most of the decorating decisions and focused on the front of the house. My dad was more involved with the financials and recipes,” says Sheltra. Now with his parents gradually scaling back their physical presence in the family business, Shane, and his brother Travis, have used their homegrown business education to help them take the reigns. These days, Shane oversees most of the day to day operations of the Sheltra’s restaurant group, which also includes The Chianti Room, — a fine Italian eatery at the eastern end of the alley, and the Sheltra’s latest culinary craze, Prohibition Kitchen, right next door to Pizzalley’s. However, they could not do it alone. That is where longtime employee and current office manager Alexandria Murphy steps in.
“No matter how much we grow we will always have a family feel,” says Murphy. Now, between the three Sheltra owned restaurants, their “family” has grown to be one of the largest in the Ancient City. Aside from growing their staff in numbers, the management team is also committed to helping each employee grow personally and professionally. “One of the biggest things we have going for us is our low turnover,” says Murphy adding, “We love our family members…all one hundred and seventy of them.”
The nurturing doesn’t stop there. The Sheltras have been devout community supporters since the beginning. “A lot of schools do catering and lunches through Pizzalley’s for fundraisers,” says Sheltra. “We also host benefit nights at our restaurants where a portion of proceeds for the evening goes to various charities.” As well as being co-sponsors with the Council On Aging, Boys And Girls Club, and the American Cancer Society, Pizzalley’s also donates food to St. Francis House.
And, with the recent start-up of their own rum company, Madi Rum, the Sheltras are expanding their offerings and upping their game. Side note: if you’re looking for dessert with a little kick, after you enjoy a meal at Pizzalley’s, you’ll definitely want to pick up a Madi Rum Cake which is available at the counter.
“Our general manager Nikki Futch and our kitchen manager Jamie Welch have helped us elevate our standards, increase our consistency, and have brought innovative ideas to the team,” says Sheltra. “We believe that we are only as good as the last meal we’ve served.”