It’s not often that forced closure can work in favor of a business, but working in the pizza business creates an opening to deliver.
Sliced Pizza Co. in Scandinavia not only adapted smoothly during the COVID-19 closure of more than a year ago, it’s been at the heart of a bit of a resurgence in the tiny rural downtown.
And in Sliced, the “spirit” of entrepreneurialism is strong.
“I fell in love with the building,” said owner Lisa Shirek. “I love beautiful old brick buildings. There’s a lot of history here. It just has a certain vibe. When I saw the ‘For sale’ sign, I had to make an offer.”
Pizza was a natural fit, even in a building from 1898 that still wears the faded tattoo of “R.M. Hanson Hardware” on its southern facade. It’s one reminder that countless other business dreams have lived out their lives within the bricks at 305 N. Main St.
I worked in sustainable agriculture for 10-15 years,” she said. “I was able to network. I knew what was in season, and I try to incorporate that seasonal freshness. It’s great when a tomato can taste like a tomato.
— Lisa Shirek, owner,
Sliced Pizza Co.,
“It was a deli from 2006 to 2010, and it happened to have a pizza oven,” Shirek said. “I’ve always liked making pizza, and we’ve gotten great feedback on it, which is crazy because it’s just the pizza I’ve been making for my family for years.”
A twist Shirek puts on her recipes is in her efforts to locally source as many ingredients as possible.
“I worked in sustainable agriculture for 10- 15 years,” she said. “I was able to network. I knew what was in season, and I try to incorporate that seasonal freshness. It’s great when a tomato can taste like a tomato.”
After her grand opening in September 2019, Shirek was just starting to generate a customer base and get her name out when COVID-19 crept onto the scene and Gov. Tony Evers’ “Safer at Home” order closed businesses of all types around the state in March 2020. Shirek closed hers, too, out of concern for her customers’ safety, but she also knew she could still maintain a connection to her community.
“We found that we could deliver within about an 8-mile radius,” Shirek said. “If people wanted to do curbside pickup, we could meet you outside.”
With more people stuck at home during business closures, Shirek found an increase in the number of people calling for her pizza. It allowed her to maintain work for her staff of a dozen employees.
This community is amazing. For a town so small, with nothing else around, people are more willing to help small businesses.
— Rebecca Walsh, owner,
A Personal Touch,
Being a small town, Shirek found she could be flexible with her guidelines if it meant reaching out a little further for customers, her neighbors, and the community. Including if people called who were outside of Sliced’s delivery radius.
“We’ve met people at Kwik Trip to give them their pizza,” she said.
As word has spread, she gets people stopping in from the Central Waters Brewery in Amherst to pick up a pizza and head back to the brewery.
Shirek is one of at least six women whose businesses are thriving downtown. All right next door to each other, they’re giving the 2,500 vehicles that pass by every day a variety of reasons to stop and check things out.
Rebecca Walsh, owner of A Personal Touch pet salon next door to Sliced, recently doubled what she’d been occupying in the space, which is owned by Shirek.
“I moved my pet grooming business out here about five years ago and there was nothing going on,” said Walsh, who is now booked out about eight weeks and simply can’t take any new clients until possibly fall. “This community is amazing. For a town so small, with nothing else around, people are more willing to help small businesses.”
Krista Watson opened ScandiHus coffee and gift shop in a former bank building cattycorner from Sliced in April 2017.
There are longtime downtown staples, too, including Adeline’s Antiques, founded by Adeline Fletoff in 1969, and JoAnn “JoJo” Mork’s Little Norway bar and grill to the south of Sliced.
Like business owners all over, the thriving entities of Scandinavia have sought ways to keep their work forces intact. Walsh began stocking pet treats and toys and was able to keep her employee. and Shirek sets up a $500 scholarship for the young ones on her staff.