Minnesota, meet your favorite frozen pizza. Then again, you probably know it well.
Thousands of Star Tribune readers voted, and the final match was a slam dunk. Heggies Pizza is the first-ever champion of the Minnesota Frozen Pizza Bracket.
How did Heggies win over so many Minnesotans? It might be rocket science. Owner Shawn Dockter was an aerospace engineer before he bought the company in 2004 from the founders, Don and Polly Hegedus. (The couple first launched the operation in their Onamia, Minn., garage in 1989.)
The Star Tribune spoke to Dockter about the great honor of winning your votes, and the greater honor of feeding Minnesota through the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.
Q: You won! How does it feel?
A: Wow. Very, very nice. It’s nice to hear. It’s definitely not about winning right now, but we’re very grateful for the fans’ support.
Q: How did you do it? Did you have a strategy to mobilize voters?
A: Honestly, no. Right now, our focus has been on providing food in a crisis. We’ve reveled lately at some of the stories we’ve seen, posts of people having a moment of normalcy having a Heggies at home with their family. Our employees have done an incredible job working really hard trying to keep up with demand that is unbelievably high right now, just because people are trying to protect their families and keep food in their house.
We saw updates and it was certainly brought to our attention. But there was no strategy for us. We let our fans speak for themselves.
Q: Minnesota has so many frozen pizza brands. How does Heggies fit into the frozen pizza landscape?
A: Our company started off like most frozen pizza companies, in bars and restaurants, and we are so grateful to so many of those places that carried us for two to three decades or more. It means a lot to us, and hopefully it’s why we’ve become the company we have.
Q: What makes Heggies unique among all those other brands?
A: I got some advice when I first got into business. Businesses many times overcomplicate things. The advice I got was to be the cheapest or be the best. Our goal was to the best frozen pizza we can be. The quality of ingredients, the attention to detail, the amazing set of employees doing everything they can to make a pizza they want to eat. So many flavors we introduced to the marketplace came from our employees eating something. The Six Pack — one of our signature styles of pizzas, came from our employees making it for themselves every day.
Q: Where do you get your ingredients? Are they all local?
A: Everything is as local as we can make it.
Q: This is a unique time for food businesses. How have things changed for Heggies Pizza in the last few weeks?
A: Obviously, with bars and restaurants closed down, we’re doing everything we can to support those that are staying open and providing takeout. Fundraising is very important to us as a company, and unfortunately to follow the governors’ guidelines, we’ve had to pull back from those so that people are not gathering. We are doing our best to limit the effects of the virus.
And the demand has been off the charts in grocery stores. I’ve been going in and seeing the empty shelves, and that’s a burden our employees feel. They care about the people who like our pizza. There’s a lot of people in need, people out of work, for whom a meal is essential right now.
We sent truckfuls of pizza to various food shelves, food pantries and organizations all around our area. We’ve been donating many thousands of pizzas, because right now the need is huge and it’s heartbreaking.
Q: Has it affected how you work, too?
A: Absolutely. We’ve pulled back on the varieties of pizza we’re offering, to make sure we’re keeping space for employees, while trying to meet the demand by putting out as many as we can.
Q: What’s ahead for Heggies?
A: It’s very difficult to say. That question would imply knowing what’s going to happen and right now none of us do. We’d love to continue to grow, but right now, our whole focus is helping our community, helping our state come through the weeks and months ahead, by playing the small part that we do.
Q: What would you like to say to Heggies Pizza fans who helped you bring home the trophy?
A: Unbelievable. Huge thank you. It means the world. There’s a reason why we’re able to do this. The reason why the company’s had success is because of the fans, the loyalty of the people who have been excited about our pizza. We’re grateful to see that. We’ll do everything we can to keep it going.