Pizzeria features handmade oven

Katrice Perkins/ Daily Mining Gazette Porter Davis places a pizza in the handmade, wood-burning oven at UP North Pizzeria in L’Anse on Saturday

L’ANSE — Although it has been in business for more than a month, UP North Pizzeria cut its ribbon to mark its official opening on Saturday.

“We’re excited to introduce the latest restaurant to L’Anse,” Baraga County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Stouffer said at the ribbon-cutting.

The pizzeria has been open since Jan. 8 after being purchased on Sep. 11, 2015, and remodeled by owner, Tom LeRue II and his family.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the public was invited in to see the rustic, light-filled restaurant that features a large, wood-burning, hand-assembled stove on display for customers to see behind the counter. There were also free refreshments and pizzas available to sample as well.

LeRue, who still works as a UPS driver, owns the restaurant with the help of his employees that mostly consists of his family members, except the cook, Porter Davis.

LeRue said he has never owned a business before so this is “trial by fire,” but the pizzeria is something he’s always wanted.

“I always wanted one, and there’s not many around the U.P., so I figured why not start one?” said LeRue.

With the help of family members, they completely renovated the building themselves, with some outside help for the heating, cooling, plumbing and drywall.

“There’s still some stuff we’re learning as we go,” he said.

Many customers and community members came to the ceremony to show their support and try out the food.

Chris Tollefson and her friends talked about how the place used to be a tavern then a bookstore. They were excited about having a new business in town.

“We love it,” Tollefson said. “It’s nice to see activity here again.”

Besides pizza, the restaurant offers subs, wraps and desserts. It pays homage to local landmarks, with some pizzas named Big Eric, Mt. Curwood and Mt. Arvon.

When asked what he’s learned so far, LeRue said, “Don’t start a restaurant. Especially in Michigan. It’s pretty rough. There’s lots of paperwork and red tape,” said LeRue.

Despite the challenges, there is more they want to do.

“We plan to get get a liquor license, deliver and make hot sandwiches. There’s a lot of things we’re working on. It just takes time to build your way up,” said LeRue.

The pizzeria will be offering delivery this Saturday and Sunday within a seven-mile radius of its L’Anse location at 15740 Jack O’ Lantern Road.

“We’re going to see how it goes, and if there’s enough demand for it, we’re going to make it seven days a week,” said LeRue.