WILLMAR—Not only does the oven at 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria actually cook the pies at 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, there are literally thousands of pizza combinations possible—between 33,000 and 34,000 to be exact.
“There is no shortage of pizza,” owner Carl Lindblad said.
Carl owns the restaurant with his wife, Courtney Lindblad, and the two are excited to be opening the first 1000 Degree franchise in Minnesota in Willmar, only a short distance from their native Benson.
“That is something we’re pretty proud of,” Courtney Lindblad said.
The pizzeria is located at 1700 1st St. S., attached to Cullen’s Home Center. The grand opening is Thursday, with free pizza and other giveaways, including free pizza for a year.
When customers come in to order their pizza, they will be able to choose from three different crusts, eight sauces, seven cheeses, seven meats and 14 vegetables. The menu also includes salads, wings and breadsticks. There is no limit to the number of toppings allowed on the pizza and it’s all for one price. No extra charges for extra toppings.
“You can order something specific to you. Put whatever you want on it,” Courtney Lindblad said.
The oven, which is so big a wall had to be removed to install it in the restaurant, is a brick oven, which gives the pizza a different flavor than traditionally baked pizza and it cooks it in about two minutes. The Lindblads said it usually takes customers longer to decide what they want on their pizza than it take to actually cook it.
Both husband and wife grew up in Benson with parents who owned their own businesses. Courtney’s father Craig Johnson owns nine Subway restaurants, while Carl’s father, Craig Lindblad, owns Craig’s Refrigeration. The couple dated in high school, had a long-distance relationship during college and got married four years ago. Courtney Lindblad went to school for human resources, while Carl Lindblad was a mechanical engineer at first. However, their family and entrepreneurial spirit kept pulling them back home to Benson.
“It’s a great place to be,” Courtney Lindblad said.
It was Courtney Lindblad’s father and a business partner who discovered the 1000 Degree opportunity and both the Lindblads and Courtney’s sister and brother-in-law, Emillie and Karl Larsen, ran with it. The Larsens own the 1000 Degree restaurants in Brookings and Watertown, South Dakota.
“If we didn’t have our family around, we wouldn’t be able to do this,” Courtney Lindblad said.
Courtney Lindblad admitted there have been a few comments regarding yet another pizza restaurant opening in Willmar, but she feels 1000 Degrees offers a high-quality product for an affordable price, along with giving Willmar a fast-casual dining experience.
“This concept can thrive in any community. It caters to the customers wants and needs,” Courtney Lindblad said.
While Courtney Lindblad will work sometimes at 1000 Degrees, she is also going to continue working full-time for her family’s Subway stores. It will really be Carl Lindblad running the oven at 1000 Degrees.
“Everything you see here, that is him,” Courtney Lindblad said.
While 1000 Degrees of Willmar doesn’t have its grand opening until Thursday, the restaurant quietly opened its doors on June 8, as a soft opening to allow time for staff to get the hang of their new jobs. However, the secret didn’t keep for long. The store had its first official customer at exactly 10 a.m. June 8, right when the open sign switched on. That followed a private party held June 7, which drew curious visitors as well, hoping for their first try of the fire baked pizza.
“The community has been waiting a while,” Courtney Lindblad said.
From what they know about small businesses and small towns, the Lindblads believe they will be welcomed to the area with open arms and look forward to introducing the Willmar region to their special brand of pizza.
“Hopefully we’ll start with a bang. That would be great,” Courtney Lindblad said.
West Central Tribune by Shelby Lindrud