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Like many older Americans, Craig Ferger says, “We retired and went back to work.” Ferger was a welder for 38 years. His wife, Nancy, was an insurance agent for 32 years. When they both retired from their respective jobs, they weren’t quite ready to stop working, so they went looking for a new challenge.
The Fergers had a desire to try something in food service. Neither had industry experience, so they started looking at franchise concepts. After studying a number of different business opportunities, they decided that the Pizza Ranch model was the best fit for their new retirement adventure.
Supporting the Community with Pizza Pie
Pizza Ranch is a fast-casual buffet-style restaurant that also offers pick-up and delivery. What makes Pizza Ranch unique from its competitors is its “buffet-your-way” option. Craig describes the model as, “We make any pizza you want and bring the first pieces to your table. The rest goes on the buffet.” Pizza Ranch also offers a chicken buffet featuring delicious chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy plus hot vegetables, fried foods and potato wedges, a full salad bar, and a dessert bar, including soft-serve ice cream.
Pizza Ranch is based in Orange City, Iowa and has franchises in more than 207 locations in 14 states. Key to the company’s growth has been the support of the communities it serves. This partnership served the Fergers well as they moved to a delivery service in early 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic devastated many other restaurant chains.
Another unique quality of the chain that fits Craig and Nancy Ferger’s belief system is that Pizza Ranch is a Christian company. Their vision is “to glorify God by positively impacting the world we live in.”
Pizza Ranch lives this philosophy with its community impact fundraising program, which benefits non-profits and schools. It’s a win/win for everyone. Community organizations provide the staff to serve customers at Pizza Ranch and in return for their efforts, they receive a percentage of sales from the event.
This devotion to service is a guiding principle for Craig and Nancy, who have made serving their community a high priority at their Pizza Ranch locations. “It means a lot being part of a Christian organization”, Nancy said. “They really help you live your mission and put you in a position for success.”
Making a Lifetime Commitment at Retirement
Craig and Nancy opened the Weston, Wisconsin location in November 2014 and it quickly became a community pillar.
Franchises are a lifetime commitment, as Nancy can attest. She states, “Make sure the franchise you look at is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with.” It’s rare to find someone’s ideals and beliefs reflected in their business. For Nancy and Craig, Pizza Ranch aligned with their core values and created a positive environment for every customer that walks through the door.
Even with all of these great amenities and exemplary service, there are times they fall short, but Craig says that’s really their time to shine. “When a customer makes a comment about their dining experience, we like to respond, and if they are not happy, we will try to make it right for them,” he explains.
Lessons Learned—Financing Franchise Success in Retirement
Craig and Nancy opened their first Pizza Ranch location with the help of the Rainmaker Plan® from Benetrends Financial.” We used our 401(k) to buy our first Pizza Ranch”, says Nancy.
Even with the occasional bumps, the Fergers have experienced great success with the Weston, Wisconsin Pizza Ranch and in October 2018 expanded with Pizza Ranch Rhinelander, Wisconsin, and just opened a Pizza Ranch/Funzone Arcade in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
Nancy says, “Benetrends has been very helpful for us. We can go into our 401(k) and take money out and put it into funding our other locations. It has allowed us to expand on our mission of serving others.”
“We are very excited about our third Pizza Ranch store. Our kids live in La Crosse, so it has worked out very well for us, Nancy said.” Even with their new franchises keeping them busy, Nancy and Craig still stress the importance of giving back to the community. “We’re still the same people, even being busy as part of Pizza Ranch. We still do our best to help everyone. It’s been a gift from God to be able to help,” Nancy says.
Craig says their retirement venture has helped him evolve over the past six years. “I was not a very people-oriented person, but my wife is. She showed me the ropes and now I love to interact with guests”, Craig said. Nancy has also learned new things during her time as a franchise owner, stating “If you really want to do something, don’t let it pass you by.”