Hudson man transforms family farm to pizza kitchen
In March, Jeff Volovsek of Hudson sat in a crowded room at the University of Wisconsin — River Falls and watched his son, John, pitch an idea to a group of local business leaders. As a participant in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), John launched Giftigami - an origami gift card holder. Inspired by his son's success, Volovsek decided to enter the world of entrepreneurship himself with his dream of starting a brick oven pizza restaurant.
With the opening of Wedges Creek Pizza, that dream is now a reality.
Located on the Volovsek family farm in Greenwood, Wedges Creek offers its visitors a slice of farm-fresh pizza from a brick oven that Volovsek built by hand four years ago.
"Wedges Creek was originally a small dairy farm with roots in logging timber. The family business in the 1970's transitioned into a production sawmill and employed local families for years," Volovsek explained. "After the recession hit in 2006, the sawmill was shut down and we were left lots of old buildings and no real focused on how to preserve the home farm."
The focus came when Volovsek and his wife Becky explored the countryside in France and found "dinner on the farm." They were impressed with the tastes and freshness of the farm to table experience.
"I want to leave a legacy for my kids; something that would not only benefit our family, but also the surrounding communities," Volovsek said.
After seeing a few other regional farms transition into the brick oven pizza business, Volovsek — a mechanical engineer by trade — decided to build his own. Once the brick oven was completed, Volovsek found himself with one large problem.
"I had no clue how to make pizzas," Volovsek said. "I looked up recipes online and in cookbooks and started experimenting. I reached out to local restaurants and networked with existing pizza farms in the area."
Volovsek began hosting events for his friends and family to test his pizza making skills. He made his own dough and topped it with a simple sauce and fresh vegetables from his garden. To his surprise, his pizzas were a hit.
"I knew that I had something that people wanted, but I wasn't sure how to translate that enthusiasm into an actual business," Volovsek said.
One night, while Jeff was waiting to pick up his son from a YEA class, he began talking about his grand plan for Wedges Creek to YEA's Program Manager and local entrepreneur, Eric J Wenz Sr.
"Jeff is a gifted engineer and has some great ideas, but he had little knowledge of being an entrepreneur," Wenz said. "He kept telling me about this pizza farm idea and I was intrigued; I had to check it out.
Volovsek invited Wenz and his family to Wedges Creek in the spring and after tasting the pizza, Wenz helped the Volovseks develop a plan to launch their business.
"I would work at my day job during the week and spend my weekends at the farm building the commercial kitchen," Volovsek said. "It was both physically and emotionally exhausting."
His hard work finally paid off as he watched his first customers drive into the parking lot for his opening night on Aug. 19.
"There were a lot of locals that were happy to have a pizza place so close to home...and they all loved the product," Volovsek said.
As the last customer left, Volovsek stood next to his son John and the two entrepreneurs waved goodbye.
"We'll be back next weekend," a customer said.
Wedges Creek Pizza is open Saturdays from 4:30-9 p.m. through September.
For more information on Wedges Creek, visit www.wedgescreekpizza.com.
For more information on the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, visit www.husdonwi.org/pages/yea