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Pizza Guy in Wales has been serving up great pizzas for about 18 years and is doing so well that owner Jim Rydzik and his wife Shalimar are looking to expand their current location and branch out to another.

Rydzik came to work for the restaurant as a sophomore in high school. At that time it was owned by his cousins. He really enjoyed the work and became an expert at pizza making and customer service. He hadn't given much thought to making the restaurant his career though, and decided to attend Waukesha County Technical College to study architecture. As fate would have it, the cousins decided to retire in 2005, and Jim opted to buy the business from them.

"I have always loved the pizza business and jumped at the opportunity to keep it in the family," says Rydzik.

"He loves pizza so much that when we were vacationing at an 'all-inclusive' hotel in Jamaica, he ordered out pizza every day," Shalimar remarks. How can you go wrong with an appetite like that?

In the beginning

"I remember being a little nervous about the management part of the business," Rydzik shares. "After all, I was an expert at making pizzas and working with customers, but I had little experience in business planning or hiring and firing, and I found myself working over 12 hours a day, every day." This was great for the bottom line, not so great for the family.

"I decided to go back to school for business, and I've been fortunate to find reliable, hard-working employees to help out while I work on strategies to expand and improve," he adds.

At first, Rydzik was apprehensive about retaining good help. But, he need only look at the loyalty of his employees to realize he is doing something right. One of his employees has been with him since 2008, and the high school students he hires always stay until they move onto college. Even then, they often come back to help in the summer.

Looking ahead and reaching out

Rydzik's wife has a degree in marketing and has been instrumental in coming up with ideas to grow the business. She has a passion for family-friendly places and is working to include a children's activity corner at the restaurant. She also introduced a take-out pizza kit giving kids the opportunity to make their own pizza at home. She is looking to expand the menu to include a variety of pasta dishes. Both of them are actively searching the area for the ideal spot to open a second location.

Connecting with the community

Rydzik takes time to be active in the community. He extends his welcome to community members by offering new residents a free pizza. He has also gone to the local schools to work with 4K students on the very day that they are working on the letter P. After all, P stands for pizza; doesn't it? As part of his participation in the classroom, he makes pizza with the students.

He has teamed up with the local fire department in a program where the firefighters deliver pizza with their fire truck and at the same time offer to check the customer's fire alarms or provide a free alarm to anyone who does not have one.

Rydzik has built a partnership with Roots Coffee Bar and Cafe of Oconomowoc and Waukesha. Roots serves his pizza at their establishments.

"We consistently get great ratings on restaurant review sites and Facebook ," Rydzik says. "Our customers especially like our homemade stuffed bread sticks." Be sure to try a chicken fajita or hawaiian pizza with those bread sticks!

Pizza Guy sells anywhere from 350 to 500-plus specialty pizzas a week. You may be fortunate enough to have Pizza Guy coming to a place near you. If not, it is certainly worth the drive. Pizza Guy is at 323 N. Wales Road, Wales.

Old-World Manicotti  

Ingredients

12 large manicotti noodles

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

2 cups ricotta cheese

6 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried basil

1 (26-oz.) jar prepared spaghetti sauce, divided

½ cups grated Parmesan cheese or ½ cup Romano cheese

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray 13-x-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Carefully remove each shell and rinse with cool water. Let pasta dry on paper towels.
  3. For the filling, in a large zipper storage bag, put in 3 cups mozzarella with the ricotta and fresh basil. Seal the bag tightly. Squish the bag around with your hands until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  4. Snip off the bottom corner of the zipper storage bag. Use this bag to squeeze the cheese mixture into each manicotti.
  5. Spoon 2 cups spaghetti sauce into prepared baking dish. Arrange stuffed pasta over sauce. Pour remaining spaghetti sauce over top of pasta. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
  6. Bake manicotti for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan or Romano; bake for 10 minutes longer. Serve immediately.     
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