The little doughboy that could…(with a little help from my friends)

It doesn’t seem that long ago. Two young men, tired of the cold DC winters, loaded up the U-Haul and headed to the Sunshine State to find their fortune. One of them had been a mechanic and the other had worked as an assistant pro at a local golf course.

Upon arrival, they had enough money to rent a small two bedroom apartment. The mechanic found work quickly. The young golf pro discovered that Florida had more out of work golf pros than sunbathers.

The young golfer was not dismayed. Secretly, he had always had a dream of becoming a chef and owning his own restaurant. He went out in search of work in the restaurant industry and could only land a job delivering pizzas for one of the local chains. He didn’t have a car, so he took the job and delivered pizzas using roller blades for transportation.

Life for the mechanic did not change much. He could walk to work and he earned enough to keep himself in beer and chips through the week. Between the two of them, they had money to pay the rent and cable and purchase a second hand TV.

The delivery boy asked the owner of the restaurant if he could be taught to cook. The owner told him that his job was to deliver pizzas. If he wanted to learn to cook, he was welcome to come in on his day off and learn. He accepted the challenge and delivered pizzas six days a week and on the seventh day, he went in for ten hours of instruction on meal preparation. He learned the prep work. He learned to toss dough. He learned how to mix sauces. Soon, he was learning the various recipes for meals served in the restaurant. He got the information necessary to become certified in the State and passed all the requirements.

While in the kitchen, he also learned about the ingredients. He learned how to order. He met the suppliers and used his time to establish relationships with them.

As luck would have it and turnover being what it is in the restaurant industry, he had the chance to move inside from deliveries and become a counterman. The owner recognized his fervor to learn and move up. Soon he was the night manager for one of the locations.

The store prospered and he was promoted to store manager. The store continued to prosper. A day came and the numbers at one of the other stores began to falter. He was transferred to that store. It slowly turned around and began to see profits rise.

Eventually, the owner put the one-time delivery boy in charge of all 5 of his restaurants. He was growing and learning. His mechanic friend got homesick and moved back to Maryland. It did not matter. He was moving closer to his dream every day.

After several years of running the restaurants, he finally had enough money saved that he could begin to look for a place of his own. He went to the owner and told him that he wanted to own his own restaurant. The owner sent him packing.

He found a little place that had a great location but it was in trouble because business was falling off. It was a second store for a smaller chain and the current owner could not be in two places at once. They talked, a deal was struck and the young man finally had his own store.

Life was very good for several years. His business grew and he hired many people to fill the slots as he expanded his hours of operation. For a period of time, it was the only place to get a hot meal after 2 am. He worked long hours and built a fine business. He bought his first home. The delivery boy with a GED was now a business owner and a home owner.

Then, a little over two years ago, a hurricane blew through southern Florida, rolled into the Bay and turned around and roared back across the state, devastating Ft. Lauderdale. Power was out for days everywhere. He went to his shop and used lanterns for lighting and offered hot meals to emergency workers. He kept his restaurant open longer hours. His prices remained the same. He had become a beacon of hope in his small community.

The economy faltered and began slowing down. Businesses began closing. The real estate market went very sour. The “season” that once provided the nest egg became no different than the off season. He continued to operate. He tried to keep his employees on the payroll. The business continued to drop off and he had to make some cuts. He refused to let long time employees go. He told me “they have families too.”

Today, the business continues to limp along. They are down about 25% in sales. Costs have gone up. Everyone is aware that milk is now almost $5 a gallon and a block of cheese has quadrupled in price. He is hanging on.

He represents the best in the American entrepreneur. He still believes that things will get better. I can not disagree with him. He is my son. He truly is a self made man. I would do anything to help him.

So I believe in the synergy of Active Rain and I believe that sharing his story and offering members a chance to participate in his survival is o.k.

His shop is Downtown Pizza in Oakland Park. They deliver. They can be reached at 954-447-4992 (954-44-pizza). They deliver. Their menu is online at http://www.downtownpizzaonline.com/

So if you are so inclined, they can prepare wonderful food for brokers opens. They can prepare and deliver full meals to those clients that just moved in and would like a hot meal delivered on their first night in a new home. They are open until 4am. They make and deliver a pizza that is made with homemade crust and sauce and delivered to your door.

If you do have the chance, he is John Jr., tell him I sent you and let him know his dad is proud of him and the man he has become. Maybe one day, in another way, I can return the favor. If the five minutes it took to read this ended up irritating you, I am sorry. You see, I am a dad forever.

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