Owners silent after pizza shop closes

Local diners have been left with myriad questions after Winter Garden Pizza Company closed unexpectedly.

Winter Garden Pizza Company opened in 2002.
Winter Garden Pizza Company opened in 2002.
Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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A half-torn, weathered piece of white printer paper on the door of downtown Winter Garden business Winter Garden Pizza Company reads, “Sorry, we’re closed.”

Residents were left with unanswered questions after the restaurant, located at 42 W. Plant St., appears to have closed unexpectedly as early as Friday, July 7. 

Locals first took to social media to inquire about the closure, citing instances of the restaurant’s doors being locked, as well as orders being placed but not being completed. 

WGPC’s website page no longer can be found, and the company’s phone number is disconnected. 

The Observer contacted the restaurant’s owners, Frank and Grace Echevarria, multiple times for comment, with no response. In addition, no texts, emails or social media messages were responded to, as of press time Tuesday, July 18. 


Angie Sebring, a former employee of WGPC, said she worked her typical shift the morning of Friday, July 7, before the doors were locked. 

“They told us to go home, that we weren’t going to be open on Saturday because we didn’t have enough ingredients,” she said. “Then, a couple of hours later, we got a text saying that we were permanently closed.”

Sebring, who worked at the establishment for almost a year, believes the restaurant was having trouble with payments. 

“Honestly, we all had our suspicions that was happening,” she said. “It just happened too soon.”

Local resident Nikki Carlile posted a screenshot of a text message conversation from an anonymous source on Facebook.

“So, according to staff, WG Pizza closed yesterday afternoon around 5 p.m.,” the message reads. “Staff was told that checks are bouncing left, right and center for staff and suppliers. There’s no more money in the bank, and they’re closing the doors. It also seems some staff were not told and arrived to work this morning. One girl finally got ahold of a manager via Instagram. No managers are answering the phones and talking to staff according to the two employees we saw this morning.”

Mary Lou Kilgore took to Facebook Sunday, July 9, to inquire on the situation.

“What’s going on with Winter Garden Pizza?” she asked. “They accepted my order and payment yesterday at dinner time. Nobody (was) there at pick-up time. Door locked and (the) sign said, ‘Sorry, we’re closed.’”

Dylan Palmero, previous manager at WGPC, said he believes what happened at the restaurant is not his story to tell. 

“None of the employees (who) worked there really know why they closed or the real truth,” he said. “Everything you hear from people will just be speculation. This is just not our story to tell. It is sad that all of these good people lost their jobs.”

According to Sebring, there are about 35 employees who worked at the restaurant. 

Even with the issues, Sebring said she loved her job and was upset the business closed.

“Everyone was so friendly,” she said. “The job was so easy. The amount of people I’ve met from all over and even locals who I would notice walking in the streets. It was a dog-friendly place, so even the four-legged friends could enjoy a day out.”

City of Winter Garden officials said they do not know the status of WGPC, and heard about its closure on social media. 

City officials said the city usually does not get involved with landlord or tenant issues. The city has removed the outdoor seating in front of the restaurant to convert it back to public parking spaces.


WGPC’s home was occupied previously by Davis Pharmacy for the majority of the 20th century. 

William and Leah Laboy, previous owners of Orange Crate Cafe, opened WGPC April 15, 2002. The restaurant had several owners, including Michael Scorsone.

Winter Garden resident Dawn Davidson she took her children to the restaurant every Friday night.

“Continued to go even after they started doing subtle things like making the salad plates smaller because we wanted to support them,” she said. “We knew servers by name and loved our ritual pizza night. I don’t know what happened with all the ownership changes, and we stopped going as the quality dropped. I feel like the real place shut down years ago, and we’ve just been waiting for the shoe to drop. Sad for the community to lose a classic place that’s been here so long.”

Dinah Caroyl Tompkins Carboneau also wrote on Facebook to acknowledge the company’s history.

“WG Pizza was a true iconic part of downtown Winter Garden for years with their orange crate label décor and all,” the post read. “What a shock it closed and under such awful circumstances in terms of treatment of employees. Hope whatever goes in that space reflects (the) true Winter Garden and not some high-priced boutique eatery most couldn’t afford.”



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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