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Man opens restaurant on anniversary of arson fire in Toronto that upended his life

Adam Ward recalls how scared he was six years ago when he woke up in the middle of the night and realized he and his fiancée were trapped inside his third-floor apartment. A fire had broken out at the Yonge and Davisville apartment building where they lived. The smoke in the hallway was so thick that they had to barricade themselves inside.

They finally escaped after Ward used a fire extinguisher to break a window, and firefighters helped the couple and their two cats down an aerial ladder to safety.

Ward said what made things worse was that the couple immediately believed their superintendent was responsible for setting the fire, and the following day, Bradley Oliver was charged.

Last April, Oliver was found guilty of arson endangering life and in June he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

Ward said he was left homeless and feeling desperate, having lost almost everything he owned, so he started to re-assess his life.

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“I was just stuck in this rebuild where I was doing sales before, and I was fairly good at it, but not having a house in Toronto and not having any of your stuff, it was hard to focus on a sales career,” Ward said, recalling he woke up crying as he tried to navigate what he called a catastrophe.

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Ward said he thought about what he loved to do and how he could feel happier about his difficult plight, so he decided he wanted to get into the pizza business.

“Pizza day was always a family thing that we did growing up. My father was a single father, with me and my brother. It was something that me and Sasha adopted when my dad passed away,” he said.

Ward’s fiancée said she was already working in the hospitality business and encouraged him to start something new.

“When we were going through this tough time, I just kept saying, ‘Why are you going to this office job? you hate it,’” Sasha Warunkiewicz said.

Adam Ward (right) and his fiancée, Sasha Warunkiewicz. Global News

Ward quit his sales job roughly six months after the fire and spent a number of years working for a couple of pizza restaurants, where he learned the craft of making the perfect dough. He and Warunkiewicz began making pizzas in their small condominium and launched a page on Instagram called “Hooray for Pizza Day” where they showed off their deep dish pies.

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It was then that an online application called Cookin reached out to them and asked if they’d be interested in selling their pizzas online.

Hooray for Pizza Day became hugely successful. Ward recalled that on some nights, the couple would sell out of pizza. Warunkiewicz said that out of nowhere, as they were trying to figure out how to grow the business, they stumbled on an opportunity to take over a kitchen in a restaurant.

Next week, the couple will be opening Hooray for Pizza Day inside Comedy Bar on Danforth Avenue.

“It was an absolutely horrible thing. You never want to wake up in a situation like that. But looking down the road, it was a spark to really get us going in the direction we want to be in,” Warunkiewicz said of the fire.

“Our launch date is going on to be on March 13 — the same date as the fire. So it’s a full circle situation,” Ward said.

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