The seed for Well Crafted Kitchen—the pizza counter serving delicious wood-fired pies from a space at Union Collective—was planted six years ago when co-owners Liz and Ryan Bower, then working as local wedding photographers, were taking engagement shots of their best friends Laura and Tom Wagner.
After the session, the four Bucknell University alums sat around a campfire in Upstate New York and mulled the idea of running a food business together, though they relegated it to their wish list at the time.
Two years later, in 2015, the Bowers embarked on a cross-country RV trip. They dubbed it “The Amazing Marriage Adventure.” The idea, hatched from their disillusionment with wedding-day drama, was to meet, interview, and photograph couples in all 50 states, ranging from newlyweds to 50-plus-year partnerships, to see what real married life looked like around the country and pass that knowledge on to their clients.
On the yearlong journey, they shared their experiences and continued to discuss the possibility of running a food business with the Wagners. Before they returned from the road trip, which also included a three-week European jaunt, where they ate pizza and photographed a wedding in Florence, Italy, they solidified plans to launch Well Crafted Pizza, convincing Laura and Tom to move from Brooklyn to Baltimore. By spring of 2016, the business was born in the form of a modernized 1949 Dodge pickup truck.
Now, in addition to the food truck, there’s Well Crafted Kitchen, a brick-and-mortar joint inside the industrial-style barroom at Union Collective, the redeveloped former Sears warehouse off I-83.
The Neapolitan-inspired pizzas—margherita, white, radical radish, collared greens and chorizo, and spicy blue (with mozzarella, chicken, buffalo sauce, bleu cheese, and scallions; at $15, the most expensive menu item)—have a chewy, charred crust and are offered with recommended beer pairings. Toppings rotate every two weeks, so there’s always a reason to return. Innovative sides and satisfying snacks such as seasonal sausage, a twice-baked sweet potato, or pretzel with beer mustard, all locally sourced, are available, too. Order at the counter and take a seat at one of the high-top wooden tables nearby and you’ll get a text when your food is ready for pick up.
Each co-owner has an area of expertise that lends itself to the business. Tom Wagner is a civil engineer by day. He manages the now 20-plus-employee schedule and helps run the kitchen. Laura Wagner, who also holds a job helping refugees and asylum seekers, works with area farmers who supply cheese, tomatoes, and even the salt for pretzels. Liz Bower runs marketing, event planning, and truck logistics, while Ryan, a former engineer at Northrop Grumman, handles financial and mechanical operations. As for the weddings? Yes, the Bowers still occasionally photograph them—but now they could just as easily cater, too.