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Power to the Pizza: Toppers Takes on Burnsville

A local family is bringing a hot new pizzeria chain to Burnsville-Apple Valley, with four more Twin Cities stores to follow in the next few years. The Burnsville Toppers opened on July 28.

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Newly-minted dough wrangler Victoria West is issuing the following challenge to existing pizza places in Burnsville: Can you top this?

In late July, West opened a Toppers Pizza joint—the first south metro outpost for the punchy Wisconsin-based franchise, which has a stated goal of nothing less than worldwide domination. The company is in the midst of an agressive expansion plan with the aim of achieving complete pizza primacy.

For Burnsville and Apple Valley residents, a new player has entered the pizza scene south of the river, but for West the business offers a new life entirely. West entered the corporate world after graduating from Augsburg College with a major in economics and business administration. But through the years of internal consulting at Target Corporation, she harbored hope that she would one day own her own business.

"The leap for me was about having a more autonomy, and a direct correlation between the hard work I put in and success," West said. "It's been a dream of mine ever since I can remember."

West decided to go into business with her sister and brother-in-law, Katie and Lonnie Provencher of Lakeville. Last year, the trio began exploring possible ownership opportunities. They happened upon Toppers, an up-and-coming chain that was named one of the Top 50 Fastest Growing Chain Restaurants in the U.S. The company is the brainchild of CEO Scott Gittrich, a former Domino’s Pizza delivery driver who decided to "rebel against big box pizza chains" in 1984 by developing a franchise concept that included "from scratch" food and an edgy marketing sensibility.

"I ate at Toppers last fall and was really impressed," West said.

The trio did some digging, then went to see the company in action: Lonnie Provencher and West went out to an opening of store in Green Bay, WI. The trip was the deciding factor.

"We decided it would be a good fit for us. It was awesome food, a fun store," West said. "That was when we decided to commit."

West quit her job at Target in April, then spent a month at the Toppers headquarters and store in Whitewater, WI where she learned all the tricks of the trade—how to make the dough (whipped up fresh every day) and put together a pizza, box it up and deliver it. She was also schooled in management, administration, payroll and bookwork.

"I would like to say that I surprised myself: I make a pretty good skin, that's the dough when you stretch it out," West said. "But I'm really proud that I had the fortitude to keep going forward. There are a lot of roadblocks and scary moments after quitting a full-time job with security." 

The three decided to debut their first store in Burnsville, which was a cental location for all parties involved. Toppers is now up and running at 1000 County Road 42 East. 

"We're excited about Burnsville. People here are great," West said. "This town has a lot of pizza options, but quite frankly we think they deserve better."

West and the Provenchers plan to expand from rapidly here. The trio has signed a development agreement that calls for five new stores in just two-and-a-half years.

"It's relatively aggressive. We'll be heading north and east of Burnsville, though I prefer not to say exactly where," West said. "That's one of the reasons it's so exciting for us to staff up the store in Burnsville. We'll be offering employees an opportunity for advancement."

"I'll be the general manager in Burnsville as long as I can but we'll need people to take over—general managers as we get bigger, assistant managers and shift leads—and we're excited to be able to offer that," she added.

Burnsville's Toppers is just one example of the chain's exponential growth strategy. At present, Toppers can count 42 locations spread across Wisconsin, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska. Upcoming openings include locations in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Texas. The company is gunning for maximum growth and market saturation in the Midwest: 150 total stores by 2015 and 500 by 2020.

mary July 26, 2012 at 07:55 PM
I cant waite the bloomington toppers is awesome their people are too so i trust this one will be too. Being on hold is fun you dont have boring crackley music its fun to listen like listening to comedy on a radio show. Oh and omg their raspberry and cinnamon sticks are to live for a bit of heavwn in every bitw. They have unique pizzas you cant get anywhere like the potatoe pizza. You get a lo of food for your money i had to ask the guy if he figured it right. Hurry and open toppers we need you. I live in burnaville i work once in a while in bloomington ooooh&h AND THERE OPEN TIL 3AM HOW AWESOME IS THAT!
mary July 26, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I got so excited i cant spell lolololololhehehehe
Clare Kennedy July 26, 2012 at 07:58 PM
I've never had Toppers, but I'm thinking about camping out in the parking lot to get a year's worth of free food.
mary July 27, 2012 at 10:50 AM
I think the first two people who wrote here should get free food hahahaha. I wrote an awesome report hahaha.
mary July 28, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Wooohooo i have 3 hours left and free pizza for a year baby
mary July 28, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Thank you for a yrs free pizza and the t shirts i had so much fun being there all night
VWest July 29, 2012 at 06:49 AM
Mary, thanks for supporting our grand opening! We were thrilled to have so many awesome people join us for the big day - we look forward to seeing and serving you this year! Sincerely, Victoria West (General Manager/Owner)
mary July 29, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Awwwwe thank you! Everybody come to Toppers their food is GREAT! And they are all so nice.
David Wellman September 15, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Earlier this week, we placed an order with the Toppers in Burnsville, MN. Due to a series of driver mishaps, the order, which was already paid for, ended up being two and a half hours late. We were starving by this point. The manager compensated us by giving us a coupon good for a large pizza and triple order. On the top of the coupon she wrote, "Pls give us another chance! -Victoria" Today I attempted to redeem that coupon at the same store, and the assistant manager Mike, speaking on Victoria's behalf, refused to honor it. Do not give your business to the Toppers in Burnsville, MN. Do not give them a cent of your money. They are unreliable, and are happy to remain that way so long as it is cost effective; that, not honoring their arrangements, is their bottom line.

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