There are just certain things that go together. Peanut butter and jelly, fish and chips, wine and cheese. Then there’s football and pizza.
A football party without pizza simply doesn’t feel right. That’s why the recently formed partnership between Milaca-based Heggies Pizza and the Minnesota Vikings seems to make perfect sense.
Heggies is now the official pizza of Minnesota’s NFL franchise and will be the exclusive pizza sold at U.S. Bank Stadium.
That’s impressive progress for a company that started in 1989 by Don and Polly Hegedus in the garage of their Onamia home.
The product debuted to what appeared to be huge success during the Vikings’ 28-12 season-opening victory over Atlanta. “We’ve not typically done anything like this,” said Heggies President Shawn Dockter, who bought the company in 2004.
“The Vikings are a great organization with great people with great background,” Dockter said. “They reached out a while ago and wanted a different solution. We’d been talking about it and it came together. I think it’s going to be a good fit. They have a great following in this state, and it’s a lot of fun to partner with them.”
There was a lot of conversation going on for a while, added Heggies Production Manager Richard Mueller.
“That led to us testing some pizzas, and they enjoyed it. I think the word around the Twin Cities about our product helped that push for us,” Mueller said. “The word ‘legendary’ comes to mind when people talk about Heggies in the Twin Cities, so when it was announced it seemed like it was celebrated there.
“When we announced it to the crew, everyone was pretty ecstatic. Being part of this is pretty cool.”
Fans began piling into the Vikings’ glitzy home around 10 a.m., for Sunday’s season and home opener against the Atlanta Falcons and it didn’t take them long to find Heggies stands, which are located outside of Sections 307, 136 and 114.
Lines formed early and were steady throughout the game. Heggies sent a team of employees to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday to ensure quality control, though the concession stands are staffed by Aramark.
The company normally sells 10- and 12-inch pizzas, but to fit in the stadium ovens, they are selling nine-inch pizzas.
“I think it went really well,” Mueller said. “I was honestly expecting to kind of sit back and just kind of point people in the right direction, but I had to jump in to help keep up because it was so crazy and we had to help keep up with the demand. I was in the kitchen a lot, but I heard quite a few people say ‘I’ve got to try Heggies’ and ‘it’s so awesome that you’re here.’ When I was in the concourse, I had people specifically stop us and ask where our stands were.”
The number of servings sold Sunday were not yet available, but Heggies was prepared for huge numbers.
Considering the company’s retail customers include Costco, Coborn’s, Kwik Trip, Holiday Station Stores along with numerous restaurants and bars, keeping up with the volume wasn’t an issue, Mueller said.
The current agreement has Heggies as the exclusive pizza-provider for the 2019 season.
“The feedback seemed really positive,” Dockter said. “I heard a lot of great comments and fans come up seeing the logo on my shirt and saying good things.”
The growth and continuing popularity of the product doesn’t seem to show signs of slowing. Heggies employs more than 100 people, and the product is available throughout the Midwest. They moved to their current facility on the north side of Milaca in 2008.
Dockter said he never really envisioned this level of success. He was an aerospace engineer before buying the business, adding that he followed his parents’ lead in always wanting to own his own business.
“You know, you work hard,” Dockter said. “I’m a big believer in two basic principles and that’s customer service and product quality. We keep our heads down and focus on those two things. We don’t worry about what a lot of other companies are doing. Fortunately, we’ve been blessed and people have seen that. As long as we keep doing those two things well, we’ll be alright. We’re very grateful people have recognized that.”