'Nobody's ever sad buying a pizza': Mother and son duo making dough, having fun as Michaelangelo's owners
Any way you slice it, these mother and son pizza shop owners make a great team.
Maryann and Cameron Wedde bought Michaelangelo's Take and Bake Pizza in Perham five years ago, and they've been rising their dough ever since, so to speak — so much so that they're about to open a second location in Park Rapids.
It all started pretty unexpectedly. Though the Weddes had talked about going into business together someday, and even tossed around the idea of getting into the food industry, a pizza shop was never exactly in the picture.
One fortuitous day, however, the right opportunity presented itself.
"I came in for lunch one day and there were stickers in the window saying the store was closing within, like, a few days," says Cameron. "I called mom, who happened to know one of the owners... and within a couple days we had penned a deal together to keep it open a couple more months, until we could officially take over."
Both Cameron and Maryann were longtime customers of Michaelangelo's, and they didn't want to see their beloved little take-and-bake pizza and sandwich shop go away. They learned from the owners that the business was still doing well (the owners were simply ready to move on and hadn't considered selling), and they felt comfortable taking it on themselves.
As of January 2014, it was theirs.
'We're both pretty easygoing'
Michaelangelo's is the first business Maryann and Cameron have owned together, but both mother and son have a history of entrepreneurship.
Maryann and her husband, Mike (Cameron's dad), owned The Mills Motel in New York Mills from 1994 to 2002, and currently run a Christmas tree farm from their property north of New York Mills. Cameron, who studied business administration, sales and marketing at North Dakota State University, owns bidonward.com, an online auction service specializing in everything from cars and ATVs to industrial machinery.
They've each been able to use the business and customer service skills they've learned from these previous experiences in their new shared role at Michaelangelo's.
As owners, Maryann and Cameron can both handle any task or situation that comes up at the shop, but on a day-to-day basis they have their own unique roles to play. Maryann works up front most days, interacting with customers and the shop's seven employees, while Cameron comes in during the evenings to handle the behind-the-scenes, business end of things.
Their conflicting schedules mean they don't often work side-by-side, but they keep in constant communication about how things are going at the shop, and they share in any major decision-making about the business.
It's something not all mothers and sons would be able to do successfully — work together, that is — but this pair says it's "a breeze." They have a lot of fun and rarely, if ever, argue.
"We're both pretty easygoing," smiles Maryann.
"Being in business with family can be tough, but I think we do very well at it," adds Cameron. "You have to have some separation of business and personal life to make it work, but no matter what you do in life, you're going to have days that are tough and days that are easy. You work through it."
On their "off" days, the pair still do all the usual things that mothers and sons tend to do together. They barbecue on the Fourth of July with the rest of the family, they eat turkey and mashed potatoes at the family Thanksgiving table, they watch football games on TV, and they make occasional trips to visit extended family who live out of the area.
No matter which hats they're wearing — co-owners of a business, or simply mother and son — they enjoy each other's company.
'We wanted to go for it'
Michaelangelo's sells over 20 different kinds of take-and-bake pizzas, including unique options like the gyro pizza (with Mediterranean seasoned beef, roma tomatoes, onion and green peppers on a creamy feta cheese sauce) and German pizza (German sausage, sauerkraut and onions), among many others. They also offer various kinds of wraps and salads, quesadillas, garlic cheesy bread and cookie dough.
Located at 657 West Main Street, attached to Westside Services gas and convenience store, Michaelangelo's is a favorite stop for a lot of folks as they're on their lunch breaks or headed home from work.
Customers give the place five-star reviews on Facebook, with one reviewer writing, "Always friendly staff and they give great suggestions when I am having a hard time deciding what to order! Pizza is so delicious, hard to choose a favorite. Michaelangelo's pizza never disappoints!"
Maryann and Cameron knew they got a good thing when they bought the business, so they haven't made any big changes to it over the years. They "liked the model and the product as it was," they say. And as it is, things have "gone very well."
"We have really great customers year-round," says Cameron. "We have the locals that support us in the winter, and the vacationers who look forward to coming back in the spring and summer."
"Nobody's ever sad buying a pizza," he adds with a laugh.
They both say getting to know their customers is the best thing about owning Michaelangelo's. Working with their "good group of employees" is a close second.
Things have been going so well for the Weddes that they're currently working on opening a second location in Park Rapids, a community that they say has similar demographics to Perham in terms of tourist traffic.
"Since it worked well in Perham, we wanted to go for it," says Cameron. "That was the next step, was to open a second store, if we want to continue to grow."
Starting that business from the ground up has been a very different experience from buying the business in Perham, which was already established, and Maryann admits there's been a learning curve. They're currently waiting for permits to go through, and still need the final 'okay' from the Minnesota Department of Health. They're shooting for an early 2019 opening date.
"So far, everybody in Park Rapids has been really excited and welcoming," Cameron says, "so we're excited to see what happens."
The Park Rapids Michaelangelo's will be about the same size as the one in Perham, and will offer the same menu options. It will be located at 207 Park Avenue South. If all goes well there, the Weddes say, it could possibly lead to even more new locations in the future.
"They say the second one is the hardest," says Cameron. "Long-term, we're taking it one store at a time. We'll see how two stores do, and then we'll see. Maybe it'll stop there, maybe it'll grow into something more."
For more information about Michaelangelo's, including hours and a full menu, visit www.michaelangelos.pizza.