PEOPLE MOVING PRODUCT

Keeping it local

Man Made Pizza and Ice Cream focuses on dairy goodness

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RIB LAKE, Wis. — Owning a pizza place has been a long-time dream for Cody Baldwin. He was able to embark on this journey in January 2023 when he purchased Man Made Pizza and Ice Cream in Rib Lake with his partner, Chelsea Shook.

“I have been in the restaurant industry pretty much my whole life,” Baldwin said. “When the previous owners were wanting to retire, this seemed like a great opportunity to get started in the pizza business.”

Baldwin and Shook purchased the business from Jim and Chris Mann. At the time the restaurant was called Mann Made, in reference to their last name. Baldwin admits that the name conflicted with him at first.

“I didn’t think it was right to keep the name Mann Made, but everyone knew and loved the business by that name,” Baldwin said. “Small towns don’t always like change, so I was worried about switching it. We compromised by dropping an ‘n,’ so now we have Man Made Pizza and Ice Cream.”

The local community welcomed Baldwin and Shook as the new owners of the establishment, continuing to support a newer version of the establishment that it had come to know and love.

“We are very thankful for how the local community has supported us from the start,” Baldwin said. “They keep us going during the winter and they really get out a lot in the warm months.”

The business is open year-round, but Baldwin said sales are four times higher in the summer.

“The weather definitely plays a huge role in our business,” Baldwin said. “Summer is when we can make forward gains in growing the business, especially in a very small community like this. We see a lot of tourism-driven traffic in the summer — people camping and visiting the Ice Age Trail. ... There are people that visit and this is their destination. They go on vacation and there is one place they really want to stop at. We are that place.”

Building a family atmosphere is important to Baldwin and Shook.

“We all have to eat, but I think going out to eat is sort of becoming a lost thing, mainly due to the economy,” Baldwin said. “I’d like to see what I can do to change that.”

Although the Man Made menu includes a variety of sandwiches, Baldwin and Shook call pizza and ice cream the staples of their business.

“I was drawn to the idea of running a pizza place because, for a lot of restaurants, it is actually quite difficult for them to pull it off successfully,” Baldwin said. “It is challenging — the amount of ingredients you need to keep on hand, the set-up to do it correctly, the oven space, the amount of room for prepping the pizzas — but if you design it just for pizzas, it is relatively easy.”

Eventually, Baldwin wants to expand his menu to add to the variety of creative specialty pizzas offered. But for now, he is sticking with a more traditional menu with just a few specialties and a build-your-own-pizza option.

Baldwin estimates that during the summer, the restaurant uses somewhere between 120-160 pounds of cheese each week.

“People say they love the cheese on our pizzas,” Baldwin said. “They don’t realize that is because we use more than just mozzarella on our pizzas. I really like using a five-cheese blend, and then I can use more of a certain kind of cheese, depending on the recipe.”

Another reason Baldwin aspired to own a pizza place was the nature of the ingredients.

“Everything on a pizza can be grown and made right here in Wisconsin. That is a big emphasis for us, one we want to continue to build on in the future,” Baldwin said.

To complement the pizza, ice cream has long been a part of the restaurant’s repertoire, serving both Kemp’s ice cream and more recently, Cedar Crest ice cream.

“Kemp’s isn’t made here in Wisconsin, but they do source local milk,” Baldwin said. “We have been switching to Cedar Crest. It is made in Wisconsin with Wisconsin milk, so we have been leaning towards that product.”

On a good day in the summer, Baldwin says Man Made serves between 15-18 gallons of ice cream to their customers.

“We really push dairy,” Baldwin said. “That is the staple of everything we do here.”

Baldwin looks forward to working with local dairy farmers to develop relationships.

“My goal is to keep local businesses together, to keep money here in our Wisconsin communities,” Baldwin said. “It is sad to realize how much dairy we have around us, and how much of our own dairy we use. It’s problematic for everyone, for our economy. I’d like to play a role in changing that.”

Baldwin and Shook saved for several years in preparation to follow their dream.

“We budgeted, saved every dollar,” Baldwin said. “We didn’t use the dryer to save that $1.25 it cost to run it. It takes a lot of sacrifice to get something you dream of.”

The pair aspires to build their business. Baldwin said in the future they would like to be in at least three small towns, with similar, but not identical, restaurants.

“We want each location to be unique but keeping pizza and ice cream as the mainstays of the menu,” Baldwin said.

Their long-term goal, in maybe 30 years is to be downtown in every Wisconsin town. Baldwin said he does not necessarily want to own all the locations himself, but he wants to partner with people and investors who want to own their own business.

“Each location (would be) unique, but tied together for employment, resources of food and decreased transportation costs with centralized hubs,” Baldwin said.

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