John Huntsman (Louisiana)

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John Ellis "Johnny" Huntsman

(Founder of Johnny's Pizza chain in Monroe, Louisiana)


Born February 17, 1940
Stuttgart, Arkansas
Died June 28, 2017 (aged 77)
Oak Grove
West Carroll Parish
Louisiana
Spouse Sharon Huntsman
Religion Baptist
For the Utah politician, Jon Huntsman.

John Ellis Huntsman, known as Johnny Huntsman (February 17, 1940 – June 28, 2017), was the founder of a southern regional pizza chain, Johnny's Pizza House,  which he established in September 1967 on DeSiard Street in Monroe, Louisiana, across from the campus of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, then known as Northeast Louisiana State College.

Huntsman was born into a family of duck hunters in Stuttgart in Arkansas County in eastern Arkansas, one of six children of Dorothy Newton and Marion Ellis Huntsman. He graduated from West Monroe High School in West Monroe, Louisiana, at which he was the football quarterback. He enrolled to play football at a Christian college, Graceland University in Lamoni in Decatur County in southern Iowa, at which he majored in health and physical education. He returned to Monroe to coach football at West Monroe High School. [1]

After several jobs, he launched his pizza company in a small building had only three parking spaces and depended upon pedestrians from ULL as customers. Huntsman first faced the challenge of "creating an awareness about pizza." Even he had never heard of pizza until he left for college. Oddly, he was aided when a national competitor, Shakey's, founded in 1954 in Sacramento, California, opened a restaurant in Monroe and engaged in mass advertising. Shakey's convinced many people to try the new food item.[2] 

In 1987, after twenty years in business, Johnny's entered bankruptcy but soon rebounded.[1] It was known for its "Sweep the Kitchen" pizza with all the toppings imaginable.[3]

In 2017, at the time of Huntsman's death of Alzheimer's disease, Johnny's employed about 750 persons in 38 corporate locations and 11 franchises, all but two in North Louisiana.[2] In the year 2000, Huntsman established an employee stock ownership plan and transferred 36 percent of his personal stock to the fund. Over the years, hundreds of Johnny's Pizza employees thereby gained part ownership of the company. Prior to his illness, Huntsman had been a motivational speaker at various public gatherings, having told listeners that a secret to success was being at work on time and ready to delve into the responsibilities of their job.[1]

Huntsman spent his later years in Oak Grove in West Carroll Parish in northeastern Louisiana. He and his wife of more than three decades, Sharon, had three daughters, Marian Archibald and husband Joe of Statesville, North Carolina, Heather Huntsman of Monroe, and the late Lacey Huntsman, and one son, John, of Phoenix, Arizona.[1]

In late 2018, it was reported that Johnny's Pizza House is now 100 percent employee-owned, the goal that Huntsman had set for the company at the time of his death. Under the employee stock ownership plan, the company is a self-sufficient organization owned solely by the employees that operate it.[4]


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Johnny Huntsman obituary. The Monroe News-Star (June 29, 2017). Retrieved on October 7, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Bonnie Bolden, Greg Hilburn, and Barbara Leader (January 12, 2017). Johnny's Pizza celebrates golden anniversary. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on June 10, 2017.
  3. "Sweep the Kitchen" Pizza Maker Johnny Huntsman Passes in Louisiana. Thecount.com (June 28, 2017). Retrieved on October 7, 2017.
  4. Johnny’s Pizza House celebrates 100% employee ownership. The Shreveport Times (January 10, 2019). Retrieved on January 11, 2019.