Big Bon goes brick-and-mortar at 37th and Bull
Charlotte Masters was a self-described skeptical New Yorker at her first Big Bon Pizza popup.
As many Savannahians can attest, the company’s wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies make for one heck of a conversion experience — and, for Masters, they prompted a career change as well. After striking up a friendship with co-founder Anna Heritage, she joined the family business poised to expand from mobile pizza oven to a brick-and-mortar serving bagels and more.
“Being a newbie to Savannah, I noticed right away that Big Bon was a special place, and I thought it could grow,” says Masters, now creative director of Big Bon Bodega, which opened in April. “And it did, into something pretty awesome.”
Of course, the eatery and market at 37th and Bull streets wouldn’t have happened without the go-ahead from Mama Kay — that would be Kay Heritage, founder, mother to Anna (and three other Heritage kids) and matriarch of the Big Bon tribe. As they launched plans for a permanent location, the creative collaborators (including events director Paula Small, also pictured) got a warm welcome from the neighborhood thanks to Kickstarter, which invited supporters to join the family and grab a piece of the pie.
Today, with a 7,200-pound wood-fired oven that can fire up to 900 bagels a day, Big Bon Bodega stays busy feeding Savannah from its bustling corner of the Starland District. The menu includes standards from egg and cheese to more adventurous options featuring pork bulgogi and kimchi cream cheese. On market shelves, gunny sacks of grits keep company with gochujang hot-pepper paste.
The concept comes as much from Masters’ Big Apple roots as Kay’s South Korean upbringing, where her corner store served fish cakes along with school supplies. Whether their customers grew up with mom-and-pops or convenience stores, Big Bon Bodega aims to evoke a sense of familiarity and nostalgia — and to welcome them to Savannah, wherever they’re from.
“Being on this corner and naming our little place ‘bodega’ is a statement that we are here for the neighborhood, we are here for the community,” Kay says.
The business is also committed to fostering entrepreneurship in its young staff, and having a five-day-a-week home base helps the founders focus on mentoring. There’s also always a parking space for the Big Bon Pizza truck on summer Fridays, as well as additional events that feature specialties like Korean home cooking.
“Food is my mom’s love language,” Anna says. “Same with Char. Anyone who is important and special in my life, we can really cook — and eat!”
“We’re really good at eating,” Masters chimes in.
Now, thanks to Big Bon Bodega, more people than ever are invited to the table.