RHINELANDER - A large open lot on Rhinelander's east side could soon fill in with a chain restaurant.
Cory Moritz-Hoffmann and her husband hope to build a Pizza Ranch next to Kwik Trip on Eisenhower Parkway. The pair of former Pine Lake firefighters got the idea about six years ago when they first went to a Pizza Ranch in Iowa.
They considered pursing a franchise then, but it was more than they could afford at the time. About two years ago, the Hoffmanns contacted an investor and saw an opportunity to turn their dream into a reality.
"We've got a lot of people that we met that go down to Wausau for the Pizza Ranch down there that are from Rhinelander," Moritz-Hoffmann said. "They do their shopping and so forth, and they're very happy to have a Pizza Ranch in Rhinelander. There's a lot of positive outlook out there."
The Hoffmanns recently approached the city's Planning Commission with their plans for the buffet-style restaurant. The committee unanimously voted 'yes' after a few minor changes to the plan on Sept. 19.
"Once city planning said yes, we've just... we're beaming ear to ear," Moritz-Hoffmann said. "We cannot wait for this to happen, to get it going. Put the shovel in the ground and start building."
The husband and wife have been training with the Pizza Ranch staff at its Weston location. The company was founded in 1981 and has 200 locations in 13 states.
Moritz-Hoffmann estimates the Rhinelander restaurant would generate around 75 full and part-time jobs. She thinks the Iowa-based chain would be a great addition to Rhinelander.
"They're very community oriented," Moritz-Hoffmann said. "Both my husband and I have been so community oriented in the past many years that we want to keep it up."
Kwik Trip owns the lot and would sell it to the Hoffmanns, pending city council approval. The gas station would share its "exit" driveway between the two businesses and would add another driveway on the south side of the lot.
The city council takes up the matter October 9th. With approval, the Hoffmanns would like to break ground this fall and open in 2018.