Around a year ago, on Oct. 20, a new pizza contender came to Oxford. It didn’t offer grand promises or an upscale brick and mortars building. Instead, it’s housed in a small trailer packed with only a wood stove and the hospitality of a family business.
This business is Fergndan’s. Founded by John Ferguson and named after his two sons, Ferge and Dan, the establishment seeks to shake the local pizza market with something that most competitors can’t match: accessibility.
Instead of situating itself in a traditional building, Fergndan’s opts to take a separate route, operating out of a food truck. With only one other successful food truck in town, YokanapaTaco, the establishment taps into an underutilized niche that comes with some strong benefits.
The flexibility of the food truck allows the team to be in one place on one day, and then across town the other. This lets those who don’t frequent certain parts of town have a chance to give Fergndan’s a try when they arrive nearby.
“Development costs in Oxford were a little more than we were prepared for,” said Ferguson, “so we decided to take it mobile instead. We didn’t want to give up on the dream and decided that we could change it up and go a different route.”
According to MobileCuisine.com, an Intuit 2020 Research Report called “Food Trucks Motor Into the Mainstream” reports that food trucks are expected to generate about $2.7 billion in revenue this year. This is four times the amount of a 2012 food truck revenue estimate of $650 million provided by the National Restaurant Association.
Fergndan’s started as a small family venture between Ferguson and his family. They had always wanted to start a family business, but had struggled for years to find the perfect opening to do so.
“It’s hard starting a business from scratch and find the right business to do that with,” Ferguson said. “There are hurdles every day you have to fight through, and you have to say you won’t let this stop you, and that you’ll keep moving forward.”
Eventually, the family settled on starting the pizza business. Despite the pizza market being the “Western Front” of Oxford’s food landscape, Ferguson wasn’t too worried about starting the project, confident in the niche.
Along with the mobile format of the venture, Ferguson put heavy emphasis on restoring the “magic” in pizza-making by using a wood-fired oven for cooking everything. He felt that with too many establishments, the prevalence of high-powered, 850-plus-degree ovens made many of the pizzas blend together flavorwise.
“You don’t get the magic that’s in the yeast and the sugar interactions at anything above 650 degrees,” Ferguson said.
Another benefit that Ferguson noted besides the more natural, homemade flavor that a wood oven provides is that the wood-fired oven makes for more convenient portability, leaving the family unencumbered by gas and electricity.
Since the launch of the restaurant, Fergndan’s has experienced positive reception from customers and steady growth. Several customer favorites have also arisen, such as the Wild Bird and Buffalo Mozzarella pizza, which were taken off of the rotation and made into a regular special.
“We grew incrementally, but also organically,” Ferguson said. “We went from going out two days a week to three days a week and so on.”
Before long, the demand for the pizza increased and the business expanded. It was common to arrive at the food truck’s location only to find a long, winding line already there. The outfit soon purchased a second food truck for use and began hiring employees.
David-Lane Wilkinson, a high school junior and Fergndan’s employee, began to work at the food truck over the summer. He came across the job through friends Ferge and Dan.
Upon accepting the job, Wilkinson worked through a training session where he was sent through all the major positions of the establishment. During the process, he found a proficiency for dough throwing and quickly became one of the team’s main dough throwers.
“I’ve really enjoyed the dough throwing,” Wilkinson said. “It’s fun, (be)cause I’ll be with Dan, and he’s gotten into one-hand throwing the dough and juggling it sometime, and I’ve been trying to get there too.”
Wilkinson also feels like the job has also helped him at home. Working at the establishment has encouraged him to take his already present hobby in cooking to higher levels, experimenting with different methods and ingredients at home.
“It’s taught me a lot with managing the money that comes in and my time,” Wilkinson said.
Being homeschooled, Wilkinson feels the job has given him a chance to branch out socially. He said the hospitable nature of the establishment applies to customers and employees.
Fergndan’s success has led to recent developments. Since its inception, the food truck has shared a kitchen with YoknapaTaco and other local establishments. The rising demand for pizza, and dough, has caused some storage complications.
Production has increased so much, all restaurants using the kitchen have begun having trouble finding places to store their products. Led by a desire to make things better for everyone, Ferguson has bought a house and is renovating it into a personal kitchen for Fergndan’s. He sees it as a win-win, allowing the production of dough to expand while giving other restaurants more breathing room in the shared kitchen.
“This is gonna let us have more space, while not inhibiting somebody else’s ability to run their business,” Ferguson said.
Along with new developments comes the first anniversary of the restaurant, which happened Oct. 20. Aside from a few social media posts, however, the restaurant decided to not focus on fanfare, but rather to honor its milestone with another day of hard work and service.
Looking into the future, Ferguson eventually plans to open a brick and mortar location for the restaurant. No specifics have been laid out yet, but Ferguson is open to expanding the business geographically.
Don’t expect them to go anywhere though. No matter how big the expansion or major the development, Ferguson plans to keep the establishment firmly rooted in Oxford as part of the spirit of a small family business.