by Dennis Dalman
Brandon Testa received a standing ovation when his House of Pizza was named “Business of the Year” by the Sartell Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual banquet April 26 at Mulligan’s Event Center in Sartell.
Also honored by the Chamber that night were Citizen of the Year Tom Offerdahl and Retired Volunteer of the Year Lint Edgerly. (For more on those winners, see May 11 issue of the Sartell Newsleader.)
House of Pizza was one of eight businesses nominated for the annual award. The others are Coborn’s, Pediatric Dentistry, PineCone Vision Center, Times Media, Verso Paper, Westside Liquor and W3i.
Besides the awards, part of the reason for the Chamber banquet was to raise funds. Proceeds from the night’s silent auction will be used to fund four $500 scholarships for Sartell High School seniors.
“It’s an honor to be up here, in front of such an elite group,” said Testa, in accepting his award. “I’ve seen the value of a Chamber membership and its general support for our businesses.”
Testa thanked his employees and his loyal customers for making the award possible.
Testa opened House of Pizza in 2004 in Pine Cone Marketplace in Sartell. The original House of Pizza in downtown St. Cloud was started by Testa’s father in 1964, and that business still flourishes, as does the one in Sartell. Shortly after opening House of Pizza in Sartell, Testa also opened Pacific Wok Teriyaki Grill, right next door. The success of Pacific Wok allowed Testa to open a branch of that restaurant in St. Cloud in 2009.
“We’re still going strong,” Testa said, noting the House of Pizza underwent an expansion project last year.
In his acceptance speech, Testa stressed the importance of “community” in maintaining a successful business. It is vital, he said, to network with other businesses and to get involved in community projects as much as possible.
Community involvement by Testa and his employees, in fact, is what helped make House of Pizza “Business of the Year,” along with Pacific Wok.
Like many businesses, House of Pizza faced challenging times in recent years because of a sluggish economy, but Testa said his businesses survived mainly because he and his staff took great pains to make a solid commitment to the local community and cater to the needs of local residents.
That kind of community involvement includes giving monetary assistance, sponsorships and other forms of help to the following good causes: Boys and Girls Club of Central Minnesota, Catholic Charities Food Shelf, Sartell Youth Hockey Association, Sartell Community Recreation Summer Activities Program, the Sartell Apple Duathlon and its scholarship program, the Kids Apple Duathlon and the Mayor’s 5k SummerFest Run/Walk.
Testa and his staff also have an ongoing fundraising program dubbed “Raise the Dough,” and proceeds go to many non-profit organizations. As a Chamber member, Testa has supported many Chamber-related projects, including the annual Sartell Chamber Golf Tournament.
“A lot of the credit for our success is the employees,” Testa said. “Every day I try to empower them to make their own decisions while understanding how they can truly affect the strength of our restaurants. What makes our restaurants so unique? Our people. We strive to make House of Pizza and Pacific Wok the best places to eat and work.”
Author: Dennis Dalman
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.