Fate had a hand in Farrell Tuohy’s business career, as he almost bought into the Pizza Man restaurant 30 years ago, but backed out. “It was a different time in my life,” he says. “I was much younger, and it scared me.”
So he set out on a path that went from law enforcement to corporate America, where he had a stable career for 15 years before getting laid off five years ago. After that, he knew he wanted a change. “I wanted to do something on my own, and I didn’t want to go back into the corporate world,” Tuohy says. He went to a business broker and showed him some options, the last of which was purchasing the White Bear Lake Pizza Man. “I decided pretty quickly that it was something I wanted to try,” he recalls. “And it’s been a good ride ever since.”
The pizza shop was so successful that he was running out of room. Then in 2016 his business neighbor, the owner of Ozzie’s Ice Cream, wanted to retire. “So we struck a deal,” and Pizza Man got twice the space and inherited an ice cream business, now called Corner Malt Shop.
Renovations in the transition were minimal, Touhy says. “We converted everything to the front,” and did more of a rearranging than remodel.
And who needs a remodel when the products are classics like pizza and ice cream? Tuohy is a traditionalist when it comes to both his pizza and ice cream, he says. “We want to make it more of a traditional ice cream/malt shop,” so they’re considering bringing in a slushy machine, popcorn machine and candy, and offering sundaes and banana splits, plus adding a novelty freezer for ice cream sandwiches and bars. “We’re also taking it as an opportunity to deliver ice cream, selling pizza and a pint,” he says.
As for his pizza varieties, he confidently states: “I’m a traditionalist.” While he admits there’s a market for artisan pizzas, “That’s not me. Mine is ‘stick to your ribs’ kind of pizza” with traditional toppings. That’s the kind of pizza I make.” He does manage to go outside the box with his traditional flavors, though.
The bacon cheeseburger has ground beef, bacon, dill pickles, onion, mustard, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, and “on the spicy side we do the firehouse,” he says. They also offer a garbage pizza, the supreme, which weighs in at nearly four pounds.
Then there’s the ice cream. With roughly 30 flavors at all times, he says you’re sure to find what you’re craving. The flavors switch out regularly with the seasons, and it’s based on what his supplier, Wisconsin’s Cedar Crest ice cream, has available.
With the expansion, it stands to reason that Tuohy loves what he does. And he knows that customers are a big part of his success. Since the beginning, he’s thrown a Customer Appreciation Day every summer. “On a Sunday in June, we close off the back parking lot and have some games,” he says. “We do hot dogs and pizza, and this year we’ll have ice cream. Just to say thank you.”
When asked why he loves what he does, he says, “I’ve always been a person that’s believed in good customer service. I’m outgoing and I thrive in that type of environment. We’ve worked really hard at building this business from what it was to what it is today, and we’re successful,” he says. “I attribute that to the people I have working with me, the relationships I’ve built in the community, our customers, and just hard work and perseverance.”
How Sweet it Is
While ice cream flavors change regularly, here are a few flavors (and malt combinations) to keep your eye on:
Daily Grind: Coffee and chocolate ice cream is mixed with chocolate-covered coffee beans. “It makes a really good malt,” Farrell Tuohy says.
Coconut Joy: Coconut-flavored ice cream with chocolate-covered coconut and almonds, just like your favorite candy bar.
Birthday Cake: Yellow-cake-flavored ice cream with cake pieces and colorful candy pieces.
Elephant Tracks: Pieces of peanut butter cups and chocolate fudge swirled in chocolate ice cream.
Chocolate Butter Pecan Malt: Chocolate ice cream and butter pecan ice cream blended into a malt. “It’s my favorite malt,” Tuohy says.