Festive Foods reopens
Contractors rally for rebuild plant
By James Card
Festive Foods will start producing deep-dish and thin-crust pizzas this week after four months of new construction, remodeling and refitting production equipment.
On June 13, approximately half of their facility burned down. The surviving half of the building was built with steel and this is where Festive Foods has refitted their production lines. The area where the burned-down section used to exist will later be used for employee parking.
Local businesses were swift to come to aid.
Faulk’s Brothers Construction rolled in with dozers and excavators and cleaned up the concrete rubble and leveled off the site. GFL/Graichen Disposal had rotation of dumpsters in service.
Amherst Telephone Company got them connected and back online. Bauer Electric pledged their entire crew to work out the wiring. Chain O’ Lakes Plumbing devoted a large amount of time on the jobsite. Flooring Express took care of the flooring needs.
Much Construction was the general contractor. Country Drywall and Plastering—a father and son team that grew up next door to the facility—put up walls. Barrens Contracting did the masonry work and Culton’s Waterwell and Pump Service drilled new wells.
“These are people that went above and beyond. They dropped everything to help us out. We couldn’t do anything here. We would have died as a business. To do all this work is quite amazing,” said Kris Miller, facilities manager.
Other contractors throughout Wisconsin helped with the reconstruction: H&S Security and Chet’s Plumbing & Heating of Stevens Point provided their services. Masse’s Floor Coating from Green Bay put in specialized flooring that is used in food facilities. Stainless Specialists, Inc. from Wausau built new conveyors. Two large companies, the Waldinger Corporation of Madison and Missouri-based RMF Freezers also played a role in the rebuild.
Day of the fire
Festive Foods is located on 7811 County Trunk D, a short drive and one left turn past Hartman Creek State Park. They are in the Town of Belmont in Portage County but have a Waupaca address.
Terry Teske, the founder of the company, lived nearby and grew the business at that location.
“A lot of people don’t know we’re out here,” said Paige Taber, marketing director.
“People tend not to associate us with Waupaca because we’re in Portage County. But we have a Waupaca address, a Waupaca phone number and we’re serviced by the Waupaca Fire Department. I believe we’re part of Waupaca even though we’re across the county line. A lot of us live in Waupaca, too,” said Miller.
This out-of-town, across-the-county-line rural location was reflected during the emergency response to the fire: they were swamped with fire trucks.
Fire departments of Almond, Waupaca and Weyauwega were the main responders and 19 other fire departments arrived on the scene coming as far as Rudolph, Saxeville and Stevens Point.
County Trunk D was lined up and down with fire trucks.
The fire started at 9 a.m. Outside contractors were sweating some pipes with a torch in a compressor room and the ceiling caught fire. They tried to put it out themselves but the fire traveled through the attic area.
The facility was composed of a patchwork of buildings that were added over the years as the company grew.
During the fire, Miller ran over to the front where he could get a better view of the roofs and Festive Foods owner Mike Holmgren evacuated the employees. Nobody was injured. The fire burned for 12 hours.
Many employees stayed on and helped with the cleanup efforts. The maintenance and sanitation staff helped contractors transform the new facility. Other employees were temporarily laid off but now many are back and they dismantled all of the machines and hand-cleaned each part.
Before the fire, Festive Foods was producing 72,000 pizzas per day. Now they will start off making 50,000 pizzas a day.
Next to the facility is a farmhouse that has been used as a temporary office and command post. The office workers plan to move into their new offices within the main facility by Dec. 1.
Eventually the plan is to expand the building in the next year and also build a new loading dock area for semis hauling in raw ingredients and departing with thousands of frozen pizzas.