NEW ULM - Local Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream owner Lee Sturm received six franchise achievement awards recently from company leaders.
"In a year where the economy wasn't the best, Lee Sturm excelled at doing all the little things it takes to run a restaurant and keep guests coming back," according to a Happy Joe's news release.
Sturm began working as a cook at Happy Joe's in New Ulm 32 years ago. He bought the restaurant 12 years ago.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
New Ulm Happy Joe’s owner Lee Sturm, left, accepts six honors from franchise Executive Director Ron Senger, center, and Happy Joe Whitty, right, last week at Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream, New Ulm.
"I began with a $30,000 SBA (Small Business Administration) loan and said my Hail Marys," Sturm said.
His honors are 2011 Franchisee Promoter of the Year, Top Sales Volume in Cities with 10,000-20,000 people, Top Chain Sales Increase, Top Sales Achievement, Founder's Award and Top Gun Award.
Sturm was hailed by Happy Joe's for sharing conversations with his guests.
"Lee always put money back into his store. He always kept it fresh. Not many people work as hard as he does," said Happy Joe's Executive Director of Field Operations Ron Senger.
Franchise founder Lawrence Joseph "Happy Joe" Whitty, a former Shakey's Pizza manager, began his firm in 1972 in Bettendorf, Iowa.
The company gets lots of nice letters from guests that visit Sturm's restaurant, Whitty said.
Sturm thanked his staff and the community.
"I have a really good staff, and we're in a good, loyal town," Sturm said.
Happy Joe's now has more than 60 restaurants in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota and Wisconsin.
Restaurants feature a wide selection of thin crust, deep-pan and Chicago-style pizzas, baked pasta dishes, hot sandwiches, ice cream, plus a buffet and salad bar.
Happy Joe's claims to be the first pizza restaurant to offer a taco pizza..
Whitty said he invented the Taco Pizza after a franchisee suggested adding tacos to the menu. Now it's the restaurant's best-selling product.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).