Pizza Barn owner Jody Paulson Stay has parlayed her love of high school sports and social media restaurant marketing into a new promotional opportunity.
The longtime Princeton business is now an official sponsor of “Preps Today,” a podcast produced by Jim Souhan, who owns and operates TalkNorth.com, a Minnesota sports and business podcast network. The podcast features on-air talent John Millea, a media specialist with the Minnesota State High School League.
Souhan and Millea visited Princeton Monday night to tape their first episode with the Pizza Barn as sponsor. They also sampled items on the restaurant’s menu after wrapping up the show, which they recorded in a booth at the back of the restaurant.
Millea joined the MSHSL staff in 2010 after a lengthy career as a newspaper editor, reporter and columnist in Iowa, Arizona and Minnesota. He worked at the Ottumwa Courier, Cedar Rapids Gazette and Des Moines Register in Iowa, the Arizona Republic in Phoenix and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Souhan is a sports columnist for the Star Tribune. He has worked at the paper since 1990, previously covering the Twins and Vikings as a beat writer. He was sports editor of his high school paper and wrote and edited for the Missourian at the University of Missouri, where he earned a journalism degree with an emphasis on American literature.
“I used to work with Jim,” Millea said. “We were looking for a new sponsor for our podcast. It’s kind of been on hiatus since December, and Jody and I had a Twitter exchange, and she mentioned she hadn’t heard any new podcasts.”
Millea said he told Paulson Stay about the sponsorship situation, and that started a business discussion.
Paulson Stay and Souhan talked further, and eventually, the decision was made to add the Pizza Barn as a podcast sponsor.
“Monday night was our first show with Pizza Barn,” Millea said. “It’s pretty exciting. Jim and I could not think of a better way to kick off the first show than come here in person, have some pizza, and have Jody come on the podcast.”
Paulson Stay said she had a fun time going on-air and visited after completing her podcast segment.
“I’ve never done a podcast before, but I was on the air when Eric Perkins from KARE 11 came to town last spring, and he did a little tour of Princeton, and everybody told him that he better stop at the Pizza Barn,” she told the Union-Times. “We were here waiting for him. He was going up to the school and had a little break before visiting the races on a Friday night and stopped in. He got a Pizza Barn shirt and everything.”
Paulson Stay also did a video with Minnesota House of Representatives Minority Leader Kurt Daudt when the business had its 35th anniversary.
Daudt is a Princeton High School graduate.
“I’m very excited about working with Jim and John,” Paulson Stay said. “I love high school sports, and Princeton High School sports. I’m an alumni of Princeton. Doing things like this is how you get customers. You need to get them interested when they are young. We are at a number of school events, and we supply food for the teams at the concession stands, and game officials at various events. To work at this level with John and Jim, and to promote the Pizza Barn statewide is our business goal.”
Regarding Princeton’s recent state tournament basketball run, Paulson Stay said it was fun watching her son, Haydn, and other team members compete at Williams Arena and Target Center in Minneapolis and the Gangelhoff Center at Concordia University in St. Paul.
“It was so exciting, and he [Haydn] had a great experience as a freshman player,” she said. “He was welcomed by the upperclassmen on the team. They took him under their wings.”
Paulson Stay’s father, Pizza Barn founder Noel Paulson, died at age 74 the morning of March 15. He was an avid sports fan and an exceptional athlete, and one of his greatest honors was being inducted into the Hayfield High School Hall of Fame in 2016.
And, one of Noel Paulson’s greatest passions later in life was attending the athletic activities of his grandchildren and spending time with his family.
“We just want to do great things in his memory and carry on his legacy,” Paulson Stay said.
Noel and Carol Paulson had a brainstorm that they wanted to start their own business more than 35 years ago, states a company history on the Pizza Barn website.
Noel, being a sixth-grade math teacher, and Carol, working in the local cafe in Spring Valley, Minnesota, wanted to take a leap and try something new. What they came up with was a casual family restaurant. What the menu would focus on was everyone’s favorite: pizza.
The couple’s first location opened in Forest Lake, Minnesota, in 1982. Wanting to raise their children in a smaller community, the Paulsons began to travel the state looking for the perfect location outside the Twin Cities metro area.
That perfect location was a small town that didn’t have a pizza place. Traveling through the area, they stumbled upon Princeton. It was small and it didn’t have a pizza place.
The Paulson family left the Forest Lake location, and the rest is hometown pizza production history.
With their own creativity, the help of an extended family and lots of trial and error, the Paulsons came up with a menu that has only had minor changes over the last 35-plus years.