June 14, 2023 at 6:05 p.m.

Family frozen food

Family  frozen food
Family frozen food

By Ben Sonnek- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Zenzens transfer Harry’s Pizza ownership to children

Part of Father’s Day is the celebration of everything a father hands down to his children. For Harry and Carol Zenzen, of Elrosa, what they are handing down to their children, siblings Mike Zenzen and Kayla Medalen, is Harry’s Pizza, their 34-year business that brings frozen food to customers across Minnesota and the Dakotas.

For Harry, it is special that the business in remaining in the family.

“It was always part of the hope that we could do that,” Harry said. “Most everything that sells out today goes into a corporation of some sort, but this will remain as a family-owned business, and we’re happy to keep it in a small town, too.”

Harry started Harry’s Pizza in 1989. He had previously tried helping someone else’s frozen pizza business in Clearwater, but it did not pan out, so Harry moved the operation to a former implement building in Elrosa, full of grease and junk cars.

“We started out from ground zero,” Harry said.

The business began by making microwaveable sandwiches and garlic bread, known as Harry’s Hungerbusters, but it was not long before pizzas were on the menu.

Medalen was about 5 years old when the company was founded. She would come to Harry’s Pizza before school and sit on a stool to help with the pizza boxes and take labels off cans.

“I don’t remember a ton of it, but I remember when they bought the building,” Medalen said.

Harry’s Pizza started with a few friends and relatives helping serve a territory between the Dakota borders, Windom, Wadena and St. Michael, but over their 34 years, their staffing and clientele have expanded. They still have plenty of family help, but that is alongside about a dozen staff onsite for processing Mondays through Wednesdays, and they have four trucks on the road. Mike joined in 2015, after which the company acquired more customers in the Dakotas, and Harry’s Pizza has grown their menu to 14 different kinds of pizzas and seven sandwich types. They have also been doing business with school concessions stands.

“Both North and South Dakota are awesome to us,” Harry said.

Medalen returned to Harry’s Pizza around 2019, serving as the business bookkeeper and controller while also working with fundraisers. She and Mike were interested in running the business, so the Zenzens began the transfer process, but then 2020 hit with its coronavirus pandemic. Many of their accounts closed, and Harry’s Pizza had to temporarily shut down.

“We were sitting here with a bunch of pizzas and didn’t know what to do with them,” Harry said. “Then, Mike took a picture of the freezer with all the pizzas inside, put it on Facebook and said, ‘While box stores are out of pizzas, we have ample supply; please call us, we’ll deliver.’ … We did and got it moving, and today, we kept a lot of those customers. So, that was a good part about COVID.”

As Mike and Medalen take on ownership of Harry’s Pizza, they do not see the transition as anything too jarring. For Medalen, it mostly means more paperwork responsibilities.

“I don’t know if much has really changed,” Mike said. “It’s only paperwork to us. I don’t think much has changed in my mentality.”

Moving forward, Harry’s Pizza is investing more in automation to make the process easier for their employees.

“Demand is there, and our workforce we have is wonderful, almost irreplaceable,” Mike said.

As they prepare to take charge of Harry’s Pizza, Mike and Medalen are looking forward to bringing their business to new places and customers. They have fielded calls from interested customers from Montana, Wyoming, New York and more, and they know some people have brought the pizzas down to Arizona.

“We get phone calls every week from people wondering where they can buy them,” Medalen said.

In retirement, Harry and Carol plan to do more fishing and spending time with their four grandchildren. Both of them are glad to know Harry’s Pizza will remain a family business for the foreseeable future.


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