Biz Buzz: Blaze Pizza brings new concept to lakes area

The franchise took its lead from the option to pick ingredients on the spot and have a pizza made to order that can be ready in a few minutes.

The exterior of a new restaurant in winter with service trucks parked out front.
Blaze Pizza is opening along Dellwood Drive in Baxter with a Wave Coin Laundry next door. Franchise owners Larissa and Bob Sullivan expect the restaurant to open at the end of February or in early March.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — A new way to think of ordering pizza is coming to Baxter with an opening at the end of February or early March.

Larissa Sullivan is owner/franchisee and general manager at Blaze Pizza. Larissa Sullivan and her husband Bob Sullivan are well known in the restaurant community as franchise owners of Firehouse Subs in Baxter and Bob Sullivan had a long run with multiple Wendy’s restaurants in the region before leaving that franchise.

Now they are behind the new Blaze Pizza franchise along Dellwood Drive in Baxter. The property was redeveloped after the Speedway gas station and convenience store on the site closed. The Sullivans purchased the property and are creating the Blaze Pizza location there as well as a Wave Coin Laundry at the site. The Sullivans have the two restaurants, the laundromat, storage units in Nisswa and rental apartments in Brainerd.

Larissa Sullivan said the opening for the business is about a month out. She said the concept basically turns pizza into fast food with an oven capable of cooking pizzas made to order in about three minutes.

“It is just very fast,” Sullivan said, noting with pizza there can be a wait time, but not with this process.


The Sullivans found Blaze Pizza in a similar fashion to their choosing Firehouse Subs. They were looking for a pizza place that was new to them and after trying the food, they came back the next day to see if it was as good the second time and it didn’t disappoint. Blaze Pizza is based in a city known for roses — Pasadena, California. They company places a premium on using fresh ingredients, responsibly raised animals and eco-friendly packaging. In addition, there are pizza options for vegan and keto.

“We believe in Here and Now. To us, that means fresh dough, NEVER FROZEN, made in-house each day simply from unbleached flour, filtered water, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and a touch of sugar. No chemicals. No additives. No kidding. We’ve also nixed the nitrites from our cured meats, switched to “true hue” banana peppers and olives without artificial colors, and created our own salad dressings, leaving the artificial preservatives behind,” Blaze Pizza states on its website.

The concept for Blaze Pizza puts ingredients on the assembly line.

Sullivan said the founders, Rick and Elise Wetzel, were inspired by a trip to Chipotle where customers can pick from ingredients for their meals, and asked why pizza couldn’t be created in a similar fashion.

“We got seating inside and then it's basically you go down the line,” Sullivan said. “And by the time you get your drinks and desserts or a salad, your pizza’s practically ready by the time you grab your seat — we call your name.”

Customers can go through and pick what they want on their pizza. Options include an 11-inch pizza, 14-inch pizza, double crust, half-pizza or cauliflower crust pizza, among other menu features.

Orders will also be able to be made online and via an app and picked up in the drive-thru lane. There will also be third-party delivery options.

A sign contains hiring information outside Blaze Pizza in Baxter.
Blaze Pizza expects to hire 40-50 people for the restaurant, which will have indoor seating, a year-round patio, as well as online and app ordering and delivery.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

The Sullivans expect to hire about 40-50 people for the restaurants and are offering $14 per hour and up with a hiring bonus. Some crew members will be able to train in a Blaze Pizza location in Fargo, North Dakota. And Blaze Pizza appears to have thought through the issues that come with opening a new restaurant and the crush it can make for new employees. A trained crew of about seven people help new restaurants get started by spending 10-14 days in the new location until the staff is ready to go on their own, Sullivan said.


It should be a fast-paced environment. Sullivan said there will be two lines going with a backline working on drive-thru and third-party deliveries and another line on those ordering in house. They’ll have a two-sided oven as well that customers can see in operation.

“It's pretty a unique way that things work,” Sullivan said.

Prices, she said, will be similar to a combo meal with an 11-inch pizza and a drink for less than $10. There isn’t an up-charge should a customer go down the line and ask for extra pepperoni slices. There are also eight signature pizzas to choose from along with build-your-own salads or a Caesar or Caprese salad. Deserts are also made in house, including a chocolate chip sea salt cookie or a brownie.

“We make them fresh every day,” Sullivan said. “But then once you order them, we warm them up for you and they're just unbelievable.”

Sullivan said she can’t wait until they can actually start making all the food.

A sign in front of the business announces Blaze Pizza and Wave Coin Laundry are coming soon.
Blaze Pizza and Wave Coin Laundry are opening in the former Speedway location on Dellwood Drive in Baxter.
Renee Richardson / Brainerd Dispatch

With Firehouse Subs running well, Sullivan said, she has a good management and crew at that restaurant so she’ll be able to be the acting general manager at Blaze Pizza at the start.

Sullivan noted the Blaze Pizza chain also lets employees create their own style within the company’s framework with a variety of T-shirts, hats and pins. She described the restaurant’s look as modern with neon lighting. It will seat about 50 inside and have a patio area to accommodate 30 to 40.

The patio area will have heaters and a big fire pit and will be available for use year-round with the ability to enclose the space with what Sullivan described as something akin to drapes.


“It's got a couple garage doors on the inside that lift up in the summer,” she said. “It's just really got a neat, different architectural design to it.”

“It's definitely going to have a wow factor to it for people,” Sullivan said. “It's upbeat. It's just, I think it's really gonna set a new tone and standard for pizza in the area. And I'm hoping you know everyone's just really going to be accepting of the new concept and embrace it and be excited about it like we are.”

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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