Keith “Bo” Pepper has been a familiar face at Johnny’s Pizza House in Bastrop since the day the store opened on April 1, 1978. After rapidly working his way up the ladder to become the store’s manager and operations specialist, he will be leaving next month to embark on his new position – market manager for Division 5.
“I have so many memories,” Pepper said as he slid into a seat at a table near the kitchen.
Although it wasn’t rush hour, he wanted to be promptly available to his employees if they needed him.
“I don’t mind talking about my time here, but pardon me if I have to do a lot of getting up and down,” he said.
Pepper thought back on the time when he first came to work at the restaurant.
“They hadn’t finished building the store when they hired me on March 15, 1978,” he said. “There was a motor home across the street where people could go and fill out applications.”
Pepper was a 16-year-old freshman at Bastrop High when he began working part-time. When he graduated, Steve Randall, the manager at that time, asked if he wanted to become assistant manager.
“It felt like a pretty big responsibility for an 18-year-old,” he said.
Randall moved to Shreveport six months later to open stores in that area. Pepper became the store’s new manager where he’s remained ever since.
“Things were so different back then,” he said. “We didn’t deliver, we made our own pizza sauce and we washed dishes by hand.”
Pepper said over the years, he’s watched the store change in ways that made the job easier while offering customers better service.
“We changed from having an old salad tub to having a larger salad and pizza buffet,” he said. “Prep work has gotten a lot easier too.”
When asked to recollect his fondest memory during his tenure, Pepper didn’t ponder.
“In 1982, Johnny’s had a contest, grading store managers on things like labor cost, food cost and inspection scores,” he said. “I won. The prize was a trip to Hawaii.”
Pepper said he had been dating his girlfriend, Phyllis Owens, for two years.
“We had talked about getting married, but the trip to Hawaii made me ask her to finally go through with it,” he said. “Her mother planned the wedding in 10 days and we were married at Central Baptist Church. We left the next day for Hawaii. We’ve been married every since.”
Pepper said he’s been fortunate to have a “wonderful” life during his employment.
“I’ve raised two happy and successful sons, Barrett, who’s now 27, and Corey, who’s now 26,” he said. “This job provided me a nice home for me, my wife and my sons.”
Although Pepper has been offered promotions in the past, he never felt like the time was quite right.
With his new position putting him in charge of Johnny’s Pizza House’s in the nearby towns of Oak Grove, Farmerville, Sterlington, Town and Country and Crossett, he’ll be able to remain at his home in Bastrop.
“When I was offered this position three years ago, we didn’t have the stores in Farmerville, Crossett and Oak Grove,” he said. “This was a better fit for me right now. Bastrop’s right in the center.”
Pepper said although he’ll still be visiting the Bastrop location three or four days a week, he’ll never forget the good times he’s had as store manager.
“I’ve met thousands and thousands of people,” he said. “Seventy-five percent of them I know on a first-name basis. I really enjoy meeting and talking with people. I’ve come a long way from a shy 16-year-old boy.”