Hot pizza — loaded with personality
Separating the delicious hot pizza buffets served daily and the man who owns the business is a difficult thing to do any time of the day or night. Donny Broussard, now 78 years old, can be found behind the Pizza Inn on Magnolia Avenue in Port Neches register five days each week, in the kitchen, visiting with friends, or eating any one of the hundreds of combination pizzas he has been making for the last 45 years. “I sometimes come by on Saturday and Sunday, too, not necessarily to check up on anyone, but just to see how things are going,” laughed the personable business owner.
Broussard is known as “a Southeast Texas character,” and he’s a fun, community oriented person, a real contributor, and a successful business proprietor. He is being honored by the Sabine Area Restaurant Association at the 29th annual Taste of the Triangle.
In typical Broussard fashion, Donny says he went to the Pizza Inn offices, decided he could make a little money and have some fun making and selling pizzas and wrote the company a hot check to cover his franchise fee. He did tell them not to cash it until he called and gave the go ahead. On Nov. 20, 1967, Broussard’s check was made good for $3,400, and the doors opened on the first Pizza Inn in Port Arthur and Southeast Texas. He has never looked back and eventually opened restaurants in Nederland, Port Neches, and several in Louisiana. “I found I liked making pizzas, experimenting, trying to win in the marketplace, and goodness, I made so many friends in the business,” said Broussard.
Broussard said that after some time in the business, he realized that there was not much traffic in the early morning and up until about 11 a.m. each day. I thought, “These folks have to be eating something.” So, the ever-inquisitive entrepreneur experimented around and came up with a delicious breakfast pizza using bacon, ham, sausage, eggs and whatever else the customer might want. “It wasn’t long before the breakfast pizza really started to catch on and folks would come by and order one or more to take to their job. Soon the plants got involved and started ordering not only breakfast pizza, but others for office and other functions,” said the proud owner.
His pizza ovens can turn out between 100 and 150 pizzas per hour, and he said that they have been called on to produce 100 or more pizzas in rapid succession for big events. “Oh, we love the big orders. These guys can get busy when they want to,” laughed Broussard.
“Faithful and good employees are the secret, along with good ingredients, and being kind to people,” said the owner. “My store manager, Sharon Tillman, has been with me for some 30 years, and her husband, Mike, with the company for 37 years now.
Jokingly, Tillman was asked if Broussard was a good boss to have, and she quickly quipped, “Sometimes he is.” Broussard has just under 30 employees at the Port Neches restaurant.
Grandson Jerrod Broussard came in to ask his grandfather a question during the interview and Donny said that Jerrod had worked there for some 16 years and learned the business. “The best part of working here was watching my grandfather interact with people,” Jerrod said. “I learned to be kind to everyone you meet. He is so outgoing, never meets a stranger, and wants to help anyone he can.” Jerrod added that he also learned to be responsible from his grandfather. “He wants the job done right and can get your goat if it isn’t,” Jerrod added.
Broussard was born in neighboring Louisiana, but came to the Keith Lake and Sabine Pass area of Southeast Texas when he was 1 year old. “I love this place and am involved in many phases of it,” he said. Broussard can still be found at a ballgame almost weekly selling fresh baked pizza and greeting friends. He confided that he has to straddle the fence in one area. “You see that Nederland Bulldog over there? Now, look over here and you can see the big Port Neches Indian. I support both schools and have friends who have children and grandchildren in both.”
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788
or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.