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Life of Pie: Grand Marais favorite Sven and Ole's expands with frozen pizza sales

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For many Minnesotans, no trip to Grand Marais would be complete without a visit to Sven & Ole’s, the North Shore pizzeria that offers memorable pie despite a pedigree that is Scandinavian, not Sicilian.

Now the Star Tribune reports the landmark lakeside restaurant will begin selling frozen pizzas; they're already available a few locations up north and will soon get wider distribution in grocery freezer cases.

The Cook County News Herald reported that the first frozen Sven & Ole’s pizzas went on sale in three locations in Lake County earlier this year and even the pizza makers were surprised by the enthusiastic response.

“We sold over 700 pizza in two weeks. I would have thought we would have done really, really well if we would have done half of that," Sven and Ole owner Sid Backlund Jr. told his hometown newspaper. "I was absolutely shocked by the response from the public.”

Locals, tourists and hikers coming off of the Gunflint Trail have enjoyed the well-reviewed pizzas since 1981, but until recently they had to visit downtown Grand Marais to dive into the Sven and Ole pies. Soon, the small town brand will show up throughout the region, with plans to eventually make them available in Minnesota, parts of Iowa and the Dakotas, Wisconsin and possibly parts of Michigan.

The Sven and Ole's Pizza Facebook page asked fans to name stores where they would like to find the frozen pies.

 The brand will retain its North Shore cachet, but the pizzas won't be turned out in ovens in Grand Marais. North Shore Food Specialties, a subsidiary of Sven & Ole’s, has been created to sell and market the frozen line. The dough is produced in bulk in Burnsville, the sauce is made in Red Wing and the frozen pizzas are manufactured in Siren, Wis.

“I needed to find someone who could make a large quantity, but more importantly, keep up the high quality. The last thing I wanted to do was put out a pizza with my label on it but then it didn’t taste like a Sven & Ole’s pizza," said Backlund.

Customers will find five varieties of pizzas in the freezers: Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Italian Sausage, Sausage & Pepperoni Combo and the Uffdah Zah. Labels will feature the signature Sven & Ole characters and the crust will continue to be made with the dough recipe that Sid’s mother Betty gave to him years ago.

People who buy pizza on site in Grand Marais have long been given a free Sven & Ole bumper sticker, which has spread awareness of the small town shop.

In other pizza expansion news from the region, the Fargo Forum reports that the Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza chain is planning an expansion in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The newspaper said the chain would like to open three stores in Fargo-Moorhead, with the first opening as soon as the end of this year or early next. Toppers has a dozen outlets in Minnesota but this would be its first foray into North Dakota.

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