They Could And Wood

Wood Shop Pizza To Celebrate Grand Opening Saturday

By Deb Hadachek Telescope News
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Life is full of surprises.

Kelly Sells Collard is surprised to find herself living in her hometown nearly 20 years after she graduated from Belleville High School.

She’s surprised that her lifelong love of baking has become her career.

She’s surprised to find other foodies in a rural farming community who love different flavors as much as she does.

She’s surprised by the number of people from Nebraska and Beloit and Mankato and Washington and Concordia and points beyond who come to see what she–and Belleville– has to offer.

Wood Shop Pizza and Coffee–the business Collard and her husband, Josh, started as one thing that turned into something else–will celebrate its grand opening this Saturday, September 28. The business is at 1317 18th ST, on the north side of the square. Their menu includes wood-fired pizza, specialty sandwiches, gyros, salads and baked items, a coffee bar, and craft beers. Different items may be on the menu daily depending on what’s in season or how Collard wants to experiment on any given day.

The event, which will include live music Saturday night, isn’t a true “opening”, because the business has been open several months. “We’ve just been trying to figure out what we’re going to be when we grow up,” Collard laughs.

The Wood Shop employs nine people–Collard and another staff member full time, and seven other adult and high school students part time. On any given day customers might also be served by one of the Collards’ four children: Carly, Dylan, Lily and Quin, who range in age from 7 to 11.

Unexpected Twist

Kelly is an elementary teacher, and Josh works in medical sales. The family was living near Houston, Tex., when they found a superhighway was going to be built near their home.

“We sold our house and started looking for another house to buy, but realized we didn’t want to live there any more,” Kelly says. “Josh travels for his job, so he can work from anywhere. It was really his idea to move to Belleville. We bought a house sight unseen off the internet.”

Although she never thought she’d return to Belleville, Collard says after they returned, she realized how much she valued the cost of living in rural communities, being close to family, and living in a place where their children could walk to the library themselves.

“We didn’t realize what our kids were missing when we lived in the city,” she says.

After moving to Belleville, Kelly taught online and continued to work at their other business, the Wood Sanctuary, which creates handmade furniture. They bought the downtown building to turn into a shop and showroom for that business.

“Then we talked about maybe just serving coffee,” Kelly says. “Then Pizza Hut closed. Then we realized there was no place to buy fresh pies or cookies or cakes. I love to bake from scratch–my mom taught me when I was little. Then in April the liquor laws changed and we could sell craft beers.

“It all just kind of evolved and fell together,” she says. The business is open daily Monday through Saturday, and Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Board games are available for children, and she may add monthly trivia nights. Free internet access is available for travelers and people who work online.

The wood-fired oven was specially built for the business, and is fueled with local supplies of wood. Much of the decor in the building was built by the Collards, or came from their wood shop.

Collard said an unexpected benefit of opening a business is the opportunity to teach high school students and her own children a range of work skills and customer service.

“We see potential that I never saw in Belleville when I grew up here,” says Collard. “There’s a lot of people who live within an hour of Belleville, and a lot of people come in who I never knew lived in Belleville who like different kinds of foods. We have so many places to go and see and shop in Belleville and Scandia and Courtland.

Collard said this summer a family from Wichita came in that had chosen Belleville off a map to come visit for a weekend. They stayed at the Rocky Pond cabins, and she directed them to the Boyer Gallery and Pawnee Indian Village Museum, and Depot Market at Courtland, as well as other businesses and restaurants.

“We’re bigger than we think we are, and we need to get that mentality.”