How About A
Wood Oven Pizza Biz?

Dateline: 25 August 2013

The Forno Bravo Primavera 60 (photo link)

Marlene and I visited the Ithaca Farmer's Market in Ithaca, New York yesterday. We try to get there at least once every summer. It's a great place to just sit and watch the happy mob of diverse humanity. And it's a good place to eat. Our primary objective was to get a pizza cooked in a portable wood oven.

The thin-crust pizza for $7.50 was good, but it would have been better with more toppings, though I don't think thin-crust pizza is structurally suited for holding a lot of toppings.

It happens that we were at the market for "business" purposes as much as pleasure. We are thinking that a mobile wood-fired pizza business might be ideal for our youngest son, James, to pursue. He likes the idea, and was supposed to come with us to the market, but he had to work. He works at a local diner in town.

James isn't much interested in going to college, and I'm okay with that. Why go if you're not interested? Besides that, the whole paradigm of higher education is changing. Kids are going to college, incurring enormous debt to get a degree, and a lot of them can't find a job afterwards. Many end up working in a restaurant.

I'd rather help my son start an entrepreneurial business than help to pay for an education that is a waste of time and resources. So we're looking for an entrepreneurial idea that suits James' personal inclinations.

I like this business idea because I like pizza, and so does most everyone else. I like the idea because it can involve a whole family working together to contribute to the success of the business. I like the idea because it is focused on serving local people and contributing to local community. I like the idea because it can utilize locally-raised foods in season. I like the idea because it doesn't involve a significant "brick-and-mortar" investment.

The Fire Within is a company that trains and equips people to run their own mobile pizza business. But the 3-day training is expensive, and the mobile ovens are very expensive. I would finance both of those things if I thought James would take the business seriously. But he is 18 years old (almost 19) and, though he is a responsible kid, I'm not ready to put my hard-earned and limited resources into a business idea that I'm not absolutely certain will be taken very seriously and pursued with passion and commitment.

So, for now, we will pursue this idea one step at a time. The 2nd step (after discussing it and doing some initial research) may be to buy a small wood-fired pizza oven, like the Forno Bravo oven pictured above. That oven is only a one-pizza oven (but it cooks in less than 2 minutes). It weighs 450 pounds and costs nearly $3,000, delivered. That's a lotta money to cook a pizza!

But I wouldn't buy it to cook pizza as much as to see if James can learn and master the craft of making pizza (I'm sure he can), and (more importantly) to see if he will develop a passion and greater vision for the mobile, wood-fired pizza idea.  He has a family and a lot of friends who could help critique his pizza-making efforts, and help him if he does make it a business.

Beyond that, at 450 pounds, I see no reason why that oven could not be configured onto a small trailer and made into a mobile catering oven for small events (look at this little mobile oven).

We will take this idea one step at a time, and if the passion and vision doesn't develop, well, then we have a practical outdoor oven that we can use. It wouldn't be a total loss.

Does anyone reading this have any experience with wood-fired pizza ovens, or with a mobile wood-fired pizza business?


Anonymous said...

I think it is great the way you help and support your children. Mine have a small can recycling "business". They are only 2 and 4 but I am trying to teach them I am not an ATM. My only concern with putting the oven on a trailer would be all the bouncing though I have not seen one. Maybe better to transport in a vehicle and have it on some kind of dolly. Thanks for another great post---John

Sunnybrook Farm said...

That is wonderful. I have been planning on building a permanent one at our house but never thought of a mobile one. It is good to know that people are still thinking.

Anonymous said...

Herrick--love your website. As a former upstater transplant to the west you remind me of home. Now to the point--the biggest problem is not the mechanics of making the pizza but the legalities. NYS has some strict laws on food service and licensing will be costly. Think food truck. But if overcome, then your son will have to be willing to work mostly from 11:00am to 1:00 PM AND 5:00 PM to 11:00 pm which are the busiest hours. He can only make 1 at a time, and cannot pull out ready made from the fridge, which limits production. To make up for it he would have to have multiple ovens in the same spot. Does NYS allow a fire in a vehicle? Trailer? One more point: the wood that is used to make these pizzas is very pungent. Some like it, but many do not. I get an asthma attack every time my obnoxious neighbor fires up his oven. I am sure that there will be air quality control issues and complaints. Just some things to think about.

Cynthia (C.L) Lewis said...

I am going to comment much in line with above... what are NY's cottage food laws? In Michigan under cottage food law only an inside attached wood burning oven is permitted. I was hoping to bake bread and pizza from an outside brick oven but no... not if I'm going to sell it. Good luck finding a biz match for your son.

Herrick Kimball said...


Collecting cans can be a surprisingly profitable enterprise. When my boys and I took a trapping class a few years back, one of the instructors told us that he collected cans and paid for his yearling hunting trip with the proceeds. Hunting trips can be expensive. He said he had a regular route going to parks and playgrounds and such where he would collect the cans out of the garbage baskets.

RE: health department laws.... That's something my son can research. The fact that there was a mobile oven at the Ithaca farm market leads me to believe that it's not impossible. We'll see.

Thanks for the feedback.

Scott M Terry said...

I know someone who did this. I'll let them know about the post and maybe they can offer some advice.

TimfromOhio said...

Mr. Kimball,

For $3k I'm sure you could design and build several prototype whizbang pizza ovens. Anyway, as I know you've mentioned Hugh Fernly "Eatsitall" and River Cottage, I'd advise you to look up several of his episodes wherein he builds a pizza oven - they look neither permanent nor robust, but you could do it on the cheap in the backyard and experiment. Also, please visit which is an excellent forum for people obsessed with all things woodburning. There have been several threads over the years about building various types of wood-fired pizza ovens.

Best Regards,


Herrick Kimball said...


That would be great.

My natural inclination is to build things myself. But I've been meaning to build an outdoor oven since 2007, when I wrote This Blog Post. My problem is time.... not enough of it to do everything I think I would like to do. :-)

Rick Bil said...

There is a company near me that does this. Google search Pizza Vera, Kalamazoo MI. They have theirs mounted on a trailer.

Bill Huffman said...

When I was 18 I had no interest in more education after I finished High School. I knew everything I needed to know or so I thought.
I was a widow woman's kid, one of five. Worked at a money making job from the time I was twelve. Went out on my own when I finished high school.
I'm Sixty now and have just retired from the UP Railroad. I was always blessed with good jobs during my career.
I have few regrets, but it I could change anything, I would have gone to college.
A school you might find interesting would be the College of the Ozarks At Point Lookout, Mo.
I pasted what comes next from their web site. They say it better then I could.
Each student participates in the on-campus Work Education Program 15 hours each week and two forty-hour work weeks. Credit from participation in the Work Program, plus any federal and/or state aid for which students qualify, plus a College of the Ozarks Cost of Education Scholarship combine to meet each student's full tuition charge.
The school is also called Hard Work U. There may come a time when your Son may decide more education would be to his benefit. This would be a school that might be a great fit with the Kimball work ethic.
I have enjoy your blog for some years now.


Bill Huffman
London Arkansas

Anonymous said...

Dear Herrick:

I know you're short of time (I'm sympathetic :) but this video, shows an oven fired by a rocket stove. It looks like it could be trailer mounted fairly easily. They have also used it as a kiln to make their own baking stones, rocket stove cores, and other ceramics. Would James be interested in a pizza/ceramic business?

Do you have a process in mind for clothespin orders? Are you still considering selling springs?

Thanks for your inspiration,

Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Rick,
I'll check it out. There is a lot on the internet that I've yet to discover. Thanks.

Thanks for writing. I think college has changed since back in your day. For one thing, it's a whole lot more expensive. And the economy had more jobs to offer graduates back then.

The College of the Ozarks sounds good. It reminds me of the Sterling School in Vermont. Their motto is "Working Hands, Working Minds." I went there in 1977 but left two weeks before graduation. It is now Sterling College.

If you are retired at 60, it sounds like you've done okay for yourself. You're still young. Seems to me you could still go to college.

Thanks again for the comment.

Herrick Kimball said...


What video? If it's a YouTube video I'll find it. Maybe I'll be inspired. Thanks.

My process for clothespin orders will be to make the first production run available right here at this blog with an online order button. I'm going to encourage people to buy only a small amount so they can evaluate them and give me feedback.

We still have aways to go to get them done because we're making them along with selling and shipping everything else I offer. But I expect to have them ready in early September, if not by the first of the month.

Yes, I will still be selling springs, along with a specifications package, and I will be posting photos of the woodworking process. But it looks like getting all of that done will happen this winter.

Thanks for asking.

Anonymous said...

Second try....

Ahhh....blogger seems to strip urls. I had copied the comment in case I botched the anti-robot test, and the url is there, but not here. Search for "rocket kitchen" on Google, and it should be first up, posted by "Date Farmer." The oven is shown first, but the kitchen is interesting, too.

Thanks for the comments about the clothespins. I have industrious sons and woodworking gear, so a local west-coast clothespin operation by be interesting.


Anonymous said...


I'll be having dinner tomorrow from a food truck with a wood fired pizza oven.

Sounds like a great business idea to me!

Erik said...

Another line of thought is to use the oven to bake bread. No need to let a hot oven go to waste. This could be done while a pizza is baking or even at home and bring fresh baked bread with you. Nice income multiplier for a trip. Pizza for lunch, fresh bread for dinner.

Cookies, empanadas etc...

louise said...

Hello Herrick, we used to have two large brick ovens and made a minimum of a hundred loaves of bread over two days to sell at the local Farmer's Market every week from late spring to the beginning of October. If you are interested, let me know, and I will gladly tell you all about how we did it. After doing it for over 20 years, it has taken its toll on my shoulder, so we're not doing it anymore. It would be nice to know that somebody else is doing it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Herrick,

You might want to consider viewing this pizza oven:

Might be a good way to test the making pizza part of the business before investing in a full oven. If making pizza, baking, etc feels good to your son, then you might move on and invest in a real oven.

I always like to practice with things first.

Herrick Kimball said...

Thanks again everyone for the links and suggestions. We are looking at all the options.

Those mobile pizza trucks are nice but, wow, they cost more than my house is worth.

Making bread like that for 20 years is remarkable. Marlene made bread for the farmer's market for a few years. I would hook up a 2nd oven for the summer months. It was an enormous amount of work. But she had a following and it was soul-satisfying to sell out and have appreciative customers. I'm sure you can relate to that.

Tucanae Services said...

If your son is interested in a pizza business you don't need to make a serious investment first. One needs to develop the skills in the making of the dough rounds and developing your own pizza sauce. Both of these are technique that needs to be mastered that can be tested in a conventional oven. Yes the crust won't have the fire baked turn of flavor. But if you have a winning pizza combo out of a conventional oven it will only taste better from a wood fired one.

Get all those factors locked down first THEN buy the oven.

Herrick Kimball said...

Tucanae Services,

Thank you. That is wise advice.

Jade Graham said...

She values crust and sauce over any flashy toppings. I love the new place, Food Truck Wedding