Pioneers in Pizza
Meet Jeremy ’99 and Heidi (Bergerson) ’99 Seefeldt, owners of Boss’ Pizza and Chicken, a dine-in and delivery restaurant business operating in Sioux Falls, Iowa, Nebraska and Minneapolis.
If you’re a recent Augie grad, odds are you still have a special place in your heart for Boss’ Pizza and Chicken – the place just a couple blocks from campus where you could get pizza until 3 a.m. or later.
Boss’ owners are the husband-and-wife team of Jeremy Seefeldt ‘99, a political science major originally from Clark, South Dakota, and Heidi (Bergerson) ‘99 Seefeldt, a political science and Spanish double major from Moorhead, Minnesota. They met their freshman year at Augustana, began dating sophomore year, and have been together ever since.
We caught up with the pair to learn more about their story.
Q. Tell us how Boss’ Pizza and Chicken came to be.
Jeremy: While I was in college I worked at Tomacelli’s Pizza. Once I graduated, I still worked there for about six months. I eventually got in on the ground floor at Citibank as a sales associate. I worked in the retention area. Within about a year and a half, I was promoted to a sales coach. Then I became a sales manager. After a number of years, I left Citi to work for a medical supply company.
But after a while, I started looking for opportunities to create something on my own. I always thought about when I was in college, out with friends, and “closing time” would come around. We’d always have to run home early to call Domino’s to get some food delivered late – that was really our only pizza option. And, at that time, there was also no place offering pizza and chicken.
I thought, “This [pizza] is what I know how to do.” I contacted a former colleague of mine from Citibank and we partnered up to open up this little hole in a wall shack at the corner of 27th and Minnesota. We opened in September of 2005.
Q. Can you tell us the story behind the name Boss’ Pizza?
Jeremy: Yes. My nickname growing up was “Boss.” My dad said he started calling me that because I was a bossy little kid. He started calling me that as early as 3 or 4 years old. The nickname stuck all through high school and college.
Q. What are some of the benefits and challenges that come from owning your own business?
Jeremy: The biggest benefit is the flexibility, especially now with kids. I never miss any of my kids’ games. We go pick up our kids together from school. To me, that’s the biggest benefit – to be able to spend quality time with our kids.
The challenges – well, we have stores in Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; two stores in Sioux Falls; and one in Minneapolis that I recently sold. With that volume of business and the number of staff we have, the bookkeeping aspect can be challenging.
The biggest challenge in this industry is distinguishing yourself among all the other restaurants in town. You have to find unique marketing concepts to try to set yourself apart. Thankfully, I’ve been successful at getting the message out there to encourage people to at least try us once. From there, the quality of our service and the quality of our product brings them back.
Q. Tell us about some of your most successful marketing tactics.
Jeremy: About five years ago, Augie Athletics approached me about doing a promotion to offer pizza coupons when the men’s and women’s basketball teams reached 20 three-pointers each night between both games. Back in the day, when they played in the Elmen Center, students would be chanting “Boss’ Pizza! Boss’ Pizza!” You can’t buy that kind of promotion. Obviously we don’t make money on a $3 pizza, but we get the volume of customers coming in, we get customers who order additional pizzas, and we earn new customers. So it’s a positive thing.
Our slogan is “Order from the local guy.” And people do. In an average week, between the stores in Sioux Falls, we probably sell about 2,500-3,000 pizzas. We also sell a lot of chicken, too.
Q. For most people, the idea of starting a business is daunting. And scary. How did you do it?
Jeremy: I knew everything about this business because I worked at a pizza place in college and I knew that I enjoyed it. I knew there was a need in this town for late night pizza – I knew that was a niche I could fill. Yes, it was scary to quit a job that provided a solid income and benefits but, I wasn’t overly concerned that it wasn’t going to work.
Q. What’s your favorite pizza on the menu?
Jeremy: My favorite is called the “Founding Father.” Since the day we first put it out, it’s been a huge hit. It’s a three-meat pizza – pepperoni, Canadian bacon and beef. From there we add cheese and crushed red pepper and ranch dressing. Then we bake it all in. It’s among our top five best-selling pizzas.
Q. Tell us about the “Boss Hog.”
Jeremy: The “Boss Hog” is a 28-inch, 11 pound pizza. It’s the size of three and a half extra-large pizzas. You need two people to carry it out. We’ve had roughly 250 teams of two try to finish it within an hour to receive $250 in gift certificates. There’s been 12-13 teams that have finished it. The team record is 38 minutes. Once we even had a professional food eater come in and finish it in 16 and a half minutes.
Q. Serving those in need within the community is a big part of your culture. Can you tell us about that?
Heidi: One of the reasons I fell in love with Jeremy is because he has such a big heart. He does things that really make a difference. He’s hired people with special needs and people who need second chances. Years ago, we started offering a free meal on Thanksgiving day in our main Sioux Falls store. Our food vendors donated some turkeys and his parents, my parents, and other family members came together to make homemade green bean casserole, stuffing, gravy and so much more. The first year we had about 200 people that came in. Then we started sending tickets home with kids who are part of the Backpack Program, an initiative organized by Feeding South Dakota to provide at-risk students in the Sioux Falls School District with nutritious, easy-to-prepare foods during weekends and holidays when school is not in session. Every year since then, our Thanksgiving meal has just grown and grown. Last year we had more than 1,000 people come through between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. A few years ago, we partnered with Costco to help us with desserts. Our friends have also joined in to provide free sweatshirts and goodie bags for kids. We just love doing it and it feels so good to be able to help.