by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Area dining has gotten Unhinged.
Two months ago, several area restaurants that were once Pizza Ranch locations were transformed into Unhinged! Pizza and area residents have taken to them, delighting in pizza, chicken and more than 256 different combinations of ice cream.
At the forefront of it all are co-founders Kody Te Slaa and his mom Shonna Caswell and their employees and store managers in their four locations in NYA, Glencoe, Waconia and Delano.
As Shonna first opened the original location in NYA when she was 26 and Kody was 5, the new restaurant venture is timely.
“We didn’t plan this or anything but as we’re starting this new thing I’m 26,” he said. “So our new adventure and just kind of a neat coincidence. But it’s pretty neat how that happened.”
The success of the store at NYA led to the other locations as Glencoe opened in 1997, Delano in 2003 and Waconia in 2004.
Breaking away from their last brand gives Kody and Shonna the unique challenge and opportunity to change not only the look and feel of the buffet-style restaurant with delivery options, expanding to include ice cream, but also its menu.
“The Unhinged is not so much that we’re on our own but that we’ve got crazy pizza flavors, crazy ice cream flavors,” said Kody, referring to the name his mom came up with. “We don’t know anybody else who does those combinations.”
While sales were good with the previous brand, more options will keep customers coming back to see what’s new on the menu.
“You need to try to get people to eat with you one, two, three times a week at least every other week. It’s nice to have a bigger variety of food,” said Kody. “For us, in these small towns, we want to be able to cater to everyone’s needs and have a family-friendly environment.”
Among the first items that have been introduced to the delight of customers are family-friendly pastas with tasty seasonings, salad, deep fried corn dog and flipovers (calzones), with other items in the works, all deliciously prepared.
Weekly specials will further enhance those who dine in.
“Now we have something for everybody we feel,” said Kody.
What hasn’t changed is the emphasis on local businesses, with the addition of Bongards Cheese and local printing for coupons.
“It’s always been the best for us when it’s somebody local,” said Kody. “There are times where you maybe pay a little bit more but you get that extra feel from keeping it local around town.”
Unhinged! Pizza also supports schools and local events like Relay for Life, Taste of NYA on July 23, or even local baseball, like when the Unhinged! Pizza chicken ran the bases with kids at the Norwood at Cologne baseball game on July 21.
Among the new decorations to the store is a sign they had in storage which said “You don’t have to be crazy to work here, we train you,” which fits the constant mentality.
“Working in my family business was never a goal for me, but after this change it’s been really exciting as new,” he said of his role of marketing and running the business’ Facebook page. “It is kind of weird… but I was really pumped up… We’ve had a lot of good feedback from people.”
Some of the feedback on food has come from longtime employees, like 14-year employee Sheila Harms and two younger assistant managers Brianna Raether and Mike Montgomery.
“What really makes us and why we’ve succeeded for so many years has been our employees,” said Kody. “We don’t hire people for what they know. We hire them for their personality. That is really what has made us a great restaurant.”
Kody serves as the primary store manager in NYA, while other store managers include Wyatt Getten in Waconia, Jason Zehnder in Glencoe, and Steve Clark in Delano.
Reflecting on his childhood, Kody said he never thought he was going to work in a restaurant because he and his older brother Kyle always had to help their mom with her busy work schedule.
Now, Kody is glad to start the new venture with his mom, knowing she has the experience and the rest of his close-knit group of family members and employees are ready to provide great food in the area.
“I just really enjoy being around people and helping out in the communities,” he said. “That’s really what’s made us who we are in our small communities and being known in town.”
Unhinged Pizza is located at 425 Merger Street in Norwood Young America, 952-467-4011, and 224 West First Street in Waconia, 952-442-2030. For details, visit http://unhingedpizza.com or check them out on Facebook.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.