Kreg Stewart, Samantha Stewart and Harlem Wilson started operating Certified Pies three years ago out of a shared “ghost kitchen” space in West Little Rock. It was the first year of the pandemic, and the three were able to make an impression on the community, delivering pies out of the backdoor to cars parked in an alley behind a shopping center off West Markham.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, the three will open their own brick and mortar at 9807 W. Markham St., in same shopping center — along with Fuller & Son Hardware, Cheesecake on Point! and Andy’s Restaurant.
Kreg Stewart originally leased the ghost kitchen space at Arkitchen to start a meal prep company. The idea to pivot to a pizzeria came after his friend Harlem Wilson made him a mind-blowing homemade pizza for his birthday.
“I mean, literally the first bite I bit into, I was like, ‘Harlem, brother, why are you not selling this? Why are you not doing anything with this? We should definitely be doing something with this,'” Stewart said in an 2021 interview with Arkansas Times.
The plan went into the motion the following week, and the two started working on dough recipes and dreamed up a pizza menu paying homage to the music they enjoy: The Al Green pie features an Alfredo base with a five cheese blend, chicken, spinach and tomato and the Smooth Operator has a house-made ranch sauce base with a five cheese blend, chicken and bacon crumble.
One of the most hyped Little Rock foods of 2021 was almost certainly the Certified Truth Wings, fried and tossed with Truth Sauce, a sweet heat sauce made locally by Little Rock native Keith Tucker Jr.
In 2021, Certified Pies was nominated for the emerging minority business of the year through the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. It also won third place and $5,000 in The Venture Center’s Pint N’ Pitch contest.
Samantha Stewart said Certified has a lot of new partnerships with local minority businesses she’s excited to bring to the new space. In addition to Truth Sauce, Certified will feature Johnny Free & Paw-Paw’s lemonade, Sarge’s Famous Pickles, which they’re going to fry up and serve with house-made ranch and Truth Sauce. Certified will also offer pound cakes desserts from KB’s Love By the Pound and More.
The Stewarts said they’ve been getting questions about the opening daily in their inbox. Some of their loyal fans have even sworn off pizza until they can get Certified again.
“It’s really surreal,” Kreg said. “I can’t believe three years ago we sat on the couch and we talked about the vision we wanted to see. I told Sam and Harlem that I think this would really take off, and we could really make this into a big business, and I wholeheartedly believed it. And just to see everything come together now is pretty amazing. I’m trying to do my best to soak it all in.”
Certified Pies will be open from 10:30 a.m.- 8 p.m. Tue.-Thu. and 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Fri.-Sat. The pizzeria’s phone number is 501-442-5096. Follow its Facebook page here.