Trent Handrich and Chris Rasmussen once set their alarm clocks for midnight so they could make some pizzas.
When they arrived at Chain O’ Lakes Bar & Grill on that particular occasion, it was to make 20 pizzas. The pizzas had to be delivered to Thyssen-Krupp Waupaca at 2 a.m.
“It’s stressful sometimes, but it’s fun,” Rasmussen said.
Handrich and his father Don are partners at Chain O’ Lakes Bar & Grill in King, and Rasmussen is the bar manager.
Chain O’ Lakes Bar & Grill is the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 Small Business of the Year Award winner. The Chamber presented the awards during its annual awards program, held Jan. 24 at Waupaca Ale House.
In the almost four years that the business has been open, it has seen numerous changes, including the expansion of its outdoor deck and the addition of a playground.
Trent’s carpentry background comes in handy for such projects, and next on their list is a kitchen expansion.
“The current kitchen is not designed for what is coming out of it,” Rasmussen said.
What comes out of their kitchen are made-to-order items.
“Nothing is heated up in the microwave,” Rasmussen said.
Fresh ingredients are used, and their pizza is made from scratch. Their soups, barbecue sauce and alfredo sauce are among their homemade items.
They introduced walleye and eggs to the menu and plan to bring back their crepes.
If someone asks them to deliver, they will try to accommodate the request, “because we don’t want to say, ‘No,'” Trent said.
Their kitchen expansion will help them work toward the goal of modeling themselves after a supper club menu, said Don, who came in as an investor in 2008 and then as a business partner two years ago.
He is retired from the foundry, where he worked for 30 years, including 18 of those 30 years as the controller and treasurer.
Don does all the book work, and Trent runs the kitchen.
Rasmussen said, “Don goes over the books with us every day, sometimes twice a day.”
Don said that during the last two years, the business has experienced tremendous growth.
“Every year, our sales double,” Trent said.
Last fall, they added a point-of-sale system to the business as a way to streamline their operation.
When they expand the kitchen, they also plan to add more booths in the main dining room.
“These guys listen to the customers and react,” Don said.
Trent said they try to be as efficient as possible, and Rasmussen said it is about working hard and being there all the time.
Open year-round, Chain O’ Lakes Bar & Grill employs 12 people in the winter and 20 in the summer.
Their decision to be smoke free from the start – before the state law went into effect – was a difficult one for them.
They wanted their business to be one that families with young children would also be comfortable going to, and their gamble paid off.
Once a month, a group of veterans also heads there for a fish fry.
Terri Schulz, president of the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce, said, “I think they took a business that had gone through a number of different hands, and they’ve turned it around. They’ve made it a nice place to go.”
They have done projects both inside and outside and are known for their food and entertainment, she said.
“It’s a great place to go,” Schulz said. “They’ve made it very successful, and I think they will continue to do that.”
Trent said it is exciting to be named the Small Business of the Year, and his father said, “We will continue to move forward and to just improve the place every day.”
Rasmussen added, “Thanks to all our customers, If you haven’t tried us, check us out.”