Click here for COVID-19 updates affecting the campus community

Vin Trofeo's: Friends and foodies first, restaurant owners second

Tim Chaffin (left) and William Baird (right) pose outside their restaurant, Vin Trofeo's, 120 South University Avenue, Mount Pleasant.

William Baird and Tim Chaffin are childhood friends from Vestaburg, Michigan. Their friendship and love for good food was the source of inspiration for opening their own restaurant in downtown Mount Pleasant: Vin Trofeo’s Pizzeria and Pub.

However, that wouldn't happen for a while.

“Both of us graduated top fifty in our high-school class,” Chaffin said. He was joking; there were only 43 people in their class.

From there, they went their separate ways for a time. Chaffin studied diesel technology at Lincoln Technical Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, while Baird studied at Vermilion Community College in Ely, Minnesota, and later at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas. But they still kept in touch.

Each of them agreed it wasn’t necessary to go to college in order to start a business. The passion is what matters most because that’s what gets through the trial-and-error, the challenges and set-backs.

“We’d been foodies for years,” Chaffin said. 

The thing that makes Vin Trofeo’s different is their food, they said. Baird and Chaffin wanted to bring a high-quality, fairly priced pizza to Mount Pleasant. Being self-proclaimed foodies gave them the freedom to spend over a month experimenting in the kitchen. After trying countless different dough, sauce, cheese and proofing combinations they found something they both loved, and something that separated them from the rest.

They take this approach to their entire menu, which also features grinders, wings and specialty mixed drinks. At the end of the day, they didn’t want to sell any food or drinks that they couldn’t personally vouch for.

They believe that the pride they take in what they do as well as being more unique and creative than the next person will lead to their restaurant’s success. Sure, they want to be competitive, but the price was never the determining factor; quality was.

Other advice they had for business students and prospective entrepreneurs was listening to feedback and meeting needs.

“I never knew until recently that there was such a big vegan market,” Baird said. “So we’ve begun adding vegan and gluten-free options to our menu, and now have a cauliflower crust. We’re also adding keto-friendly options.”

Of course, Baird and Chaffin have encountered many difficulties, too.

“Everything’s so home-made and so fresh we can’t really stock it,” Chaffin said. “And the parking downtown isn’t the most convenient.”

“Rate of growth was another challenge,” Baird said. “We didn’t realize the inventory we had planned for weekends was only good enough to get us through Friday. Soon we’re going to get a system that will help us handle our inventory better.”

Going forward, Baird and Chaffin hope to offer delivery during the times and days that have the least customer traffic. To alleviate the small size of their restaurant, they’re thinking about having an outdoor patio for the summer. And being friends with former Red Wing player Darren McCarty, they’d like Vin Trofeo’s to be the official spot for Central Michigan University’s hockey team. Chaffin thought it would be great if the team got the chance to meet McCarty in the future.

Vin Trofeo’s Pizzeria and Pub is located at 120 S. University Ave. and is open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.