Watch out for flying dough
Great North Pizza Co. is up and running, with its signature hand-rolled crust pizza for sale in bars and grocery stores from Mahnomen to Wahpeton.
The fledgling Detroit Lakes business is owned by Zach Taves, operations manager, Becca Taves, office manager and Andrew Satter, sales manager.
They make five varieties of 13-inch pizzas -- starting with hand-rolled dough they make themselves in a giant mixer. They parbake the pizza dough, add sauce and toppings, freeze it for a few hours, vacuum wrap it, and put it back in the freezer, ready for shipping.
Zach emphasizes that their pizzas are all about quality.
"We don't cut any corners on them," he said, noting that several of their competitors purchase pre-made crusts. "As far as we know, ours are the highest-quality frozen pizzas out there."
"We put a lot into them," Becca added. "They truly are made by hand."
Great North Pizza Co. is located in a squeaky-clean 1,600-square-foot production facility on Dan Street across the highway from the north industrial park.
The business is USDA approved and is one of the few in the area served by federal food inspectors, who actually have a small office in the building.
It might have been easier to go through the state inspection process, but then sales would have been limited to Minnesota, Satter said.
Now they can sell their pizzas across state lines, including in the large Fargo market.
Because of USDA inspection rules, frozen meat -- which must come from other USDA-inspected sources -- can only be put on the pizzas from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., when inspectors are available.
But the dough and crust can be made any time, so now it's a matter of tweaking the production process to create a smooth work flow.
The three have hired their first employee, Leah Cummings and will likely hire more as sales and production ramp up.
Zach said Great North Pizza would like to meet its goal of making 1,500 pizzas a week, and that will mean hiring probably six more employees in different areas of the business.
The owners may have been thinking primarily tavern food when they launched their business, but area grocery stores have been surprisingly willing to stock the pizzas on their shelves.
"We're in grocery stores all over the area," Satter said. That includes Central Market in Detroit Lakes and stores in Frazee, Pelican Rapids, Perham, Hawley, Mahnomen, and Wahpeton.
The Wahpeton store owner actually tasted the pizza at a bar and liked it so much he contacted Great North to request it for his grocery store, Satter said.
The company now has five varieties, including pepperoni, house combo and chicken alfredo, and the owners plan to add three to five new varieties over the next few months.
They are also looking at possibly making pizzas of different sizes, or with gluten-free or whole-wheat crusts -- but changing the crusts can make the production process more difficult, Becca said.
So far, the three are pleased with how business is going.
"We've had a great response," Becca said. "The great majority we've brought samples to have chosen to go with our pizza."
If bars don't bite, it's usually because they lack freezer space or ovens for heating the pizzas, she said.
A number of bars in the Detroit Lakes area serve Great North pizza.
Satter says the company has hit its goal of making a product "as close to pizzeria as possible, with the convenience of being frozen."
And Becca says the community has been helpful towards the new business.
"Everyone's been awesome to work with," She said. "They're very supportive of us being a local business."