A mother’s love and her pizza and donuts helped started the Waldeck family business.
Wayne Waldeck asserts the success of Napoli’s Pizza and McHappy’s Donuts was not his initial goal — rather a business opportunity to help his mother find purpose. The two companies that he and his brother, William, started have expanded from their two original locations to 14. They now serve Athens and Washington Counties and West Virginia’s Wood County.
Since 1966, Wayne and William have co-owned Napoli’s, and in 1972, they opened McHappy’s.
Origins of Napoli’s
The Waldeck family business narrative begins in 1961, in Belpre, when the brothers lost their father, Ralph, in a construction accident. Five years later, while Wayne was working for the Internal Revenue Service and William was attending the University of Cincinnati, their mother continued to struggle with the loss of her husband.
By 1966, Wayne’s job had him traveling around the world. William decided to leave college and return home to Belpre to help open a little pizza shop called Giovanni’s—Napoli’s original name.
The brothers, as partners, wanted to help their mother cope with the loss of her husband and keep her busy. They established Giovanni’s with that goal in mind. “She made the world’s best pizza in our opinion,” Wayne says. “So we said, ‘Okay let’s open up mom a pizza shop.’ [We had] no intent to go in
there to make a business out of it.”
Wayne says in 1966, pizza was not the monster it is today. It was more of a novelty, and in Belpre, there were no big chains. Their store was “the only game in town.”
In no time at all, business boomed. And just a year later, the Waldecks opened a second Napoli’s across the river in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Today, Napoli’s has nine locations.
Round Two: McHappy’s
By 1970, managing the stores had become so demanding that Wayne left his job with the IRS to make Napoli’s his full-time commitment. Two years later, the Waldecks were hungry for another culinary challenge. Madge’s exceptional pizza inspired Napoli’s, and her donuts were equally delectable. So the trio dusted off her old donut recipes and went to work again.
When Wayne and William were growing up in Belpre, the Waldecks were poor. Their mother made donuts early in the mornings and sold them on a restaurant run for some additional income.
When the family opened a Napoli’s store on Seventh Street in Parkersburg, they had extra space in the structure location. It is where they established the first McHappy’s. The family wanted to call their bake shop Happy’s Donuts, but because of previous trademarks, they added “Mc” to the title.
Wayne says there are only two food companies in the world whose trademark starts with “Mc,” and in the 1990s, McHappy’s—with five stores— was a big enough success that the other one took notice. “We spent almost a half-a-million dollars fighting [McDonalds],” Wayne said. “When you’re fighting a company as big as McDonalds, it’s tough, but to make a long story short, we won our case.” The Waldecks did, however, allow McDonalds to use the McHappy name once a year.
To be able to stick around for so long, not to mention go toe-to-toe with national chains, the Waldecks cite consistent quality and service as their calling cards.
Both companies have maintained original tastes in their food. Their recipes, which were all created by Madge before she passed away in 1979, have been only slightly adjusted to compensate for healthier
ingredients. All bread products are preservative-free and the businesses are in the process of using exclusively non-GMO flours. The companies already use non-GMO tomatoes, trans-fat-free oils, and they are working towards using all hormone-free meats. “Using all that is expensive, but we feel it’s worth it to
give our customers the best quality,” Wayne says.
Donuts, pizza dough, pasta, buns, sauces and more are made around-the-clock at the stores’ commissary in Belpre, and fresh product is shipped out to all 14 stores every morning via their own delivery trucks.
“We operate like the big chain stores as far our business format is concerned, but when it comes to the production of our food, it is like a mom-and-pop [store] where all our food is fresh and natural,” Wayne
Napoli’s and McHappy’s started out as small endeavors, but 50 unexpected years later, the Waldeck’s have not forgotten their origins.
And they try their best to make sure their food shows it.