Terry Savoie jokes that other than working as a restaurant dishwasher for a month when he was 20 years old, his only experience in the food industry is “my eating background.”
Don’t negate an entrepreneurial spirit, however: Savoie, who launched Red Rover Pizza last fall, built his mobile brick-oven business from the ground up—literally.
A fan of Internet message boards, Savoie came across information about constructing an outdoor wood-burning pizza oven while in the midst of learning more about organic gardening (he and his wife Karen have 17 acres.)
“I discovered a stacked brick oven that someone had made and thought I could easily do that,” he says. “I bought 500 bricks for $50, stacked them, put wood inside and started a fire.”
That’s when the fun began. Savoie put a homemade pizza in the oven and was surprised to see it cook in a mere 45 seconds. (For those familiar, he says there are similarities between his pizza and the kind available at Punch Pizza.) Savoie made more pizzas. He and Karen invited friends over and made even more pizzas. “It was so much fun. Everyone was making pizza, chatting and enjoying the experience,” Savoie says.
Several of the couple’s friends, including fellow members of Plymouth Covenant Church, frequently requested Savoie’s creations, and he soon received an invitation to cook pizzas for “Taste of Plymouth Covenant Church,” an annual event held in the church parking lot.
“I dismantled the oven in my backyard and hauled it over there in a trailer. I made about 100 pizzas that day,” he says. “Although I wasn’t officially entered in a favorite entry contest that’s part of the event, I ended up winning the write-in votes.”
It’s becoming clear there’s more to this “traveling pizza business” than a mere passing fad. Karen came up with the company name—“Red Rover, Red Rover, send pizza on over,” and people can’t stop singing its praises. “It’s amazing pizza,” says Sara Sosa, pastor at Plymouth Covenant. “Terry has done a couple of other events for us here at the church. It’s so much fun to have fresh, hot pizza from that crazy oven.”
In addition to perfecting his cooking technique—Savoie has discovered the ideal temperature is between 750 and 800 degrees F—he’s focused on creating the perfect dough recipe. “The key is to allow plenty of time for it to ferment in the refrigerator,” he says. The other key to Savoie’s success is the fresh toppings he uses, including arugula, grape tomatoes, kalamata olives, basil and homemade pizza sauce. He also makes dessert pizzas—the lemon drop, made with mascarpone cheese and thinly sliced lemons, is very popular.
Red Rover combinations, both plain and fancy, seem to appeal to pizza lovers of all ages, even the hard-to-please ones. “My 12-year-old son Jacob is a pretty picky eater, and he’s a huge fan of Terry’s pizza,” says Pam Swan, a loyal customer. “The pizzas can be personalized just the way you want them.”
In coming months, Savoie’s goal is to bring Red Rover out into the community, starting with farmers markets in Plymouth and Maple Grove. “With the fresh ingredients right there, I believe I can provide a true farm-to-table experience,” he says. “People can enjoy watching the pizza bake right before their eyes.” Additionally Savoie wants to continue to expand his business with graduation parties, family reunions, corporate lunches, company picnics and more. He’s not at a loss for ideas on places where his pizza would be popular; it’s just a matter of having time and staff members to cover all the bases (Savoie also owns a shed-building business). He plans to enlist help from his friends and family, which include his 17-year-old daughter Kiersten and 15-year-old son Garrett.
Look for the bright Red Rover Pizza trailer in and around Plymouth. You also can follow Red Rover Pizza on Facebook, or call 612.242.3866.
BIO: Julie Pfitzinger is a staff writer for Plymouth Magazine. Send her your story ideas: email@example.com.