Sam and Louise Perrella couldn’t make ends meet in 1954 on Minnesota’s Iron Range—until they discovered the seductive power of pizza.
Sammy’s Pizza (mysammys.com), like many other pizzerias, was born of hardship. In 1954, husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Sam and Louise Perrella couldn’t make ends meet with typical jobs, so they decided to open a pizza shop. They asked a buddy in Chicago who was in the pizza business to come to Minnesota’s Iron Range (where pizza was still unknown) to teach them the ins and outs, while the entire family worked on formulating recipes. Sam knew he needed a gimmick to get people in the door to try this foreign food, but he had no marketing budget. His solution: He decided to put the pizza making area of his shop in the front window facing the main street, so passersby couldn’t help but take notice of the first pizzeria in Northern Minnesota. “That was their advertising,” laughs Jeff Perrella, son of Sam and Louise. “It was such a novelty, it took off right away.”
Today, Sammy’s is a true pizza dynasty: With 14 locations in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota, the pizzeria is in its third generation of owners—and all of them are related, with cousins, in-laws, sisters and nieces running the shops. And they all still use Sam’s secret sauce recipe and signature crimped crust. They even ship frozen pizzas anywhere in the U.S., either overnight or via 2-day air delivery.
Jeff counts himself lucky to be involved in such a huge family effort and sees the difference it has made to so many family members. “The greatest success is when I can visit a store and see my family working there, providing a good living for them and their children, and that all comes from something my mom and dad started,” he says. “If we need anything, our family is on call. We all learn from each other.”
By Tracy Morin