LAKE CITY, Fla. - Monday, April 2, 2012 - The Papa John's Pizza franchise that was burned to the ground last year by two employees of a rival Domino's franchise will reopen Thursday, April 5, 2012. The franchise, located in Lake City, Florida, had only been open eight weeks before it was destroyed in October, 2011.
In a true showing of community spirit, representatives from three major chains - Bank of America, Tire Kingdom, and Home Depot - offered extraordinary and unexpected support to help the three owners survive the disaster.
The franchise was started by longtime Papa John's employees and friends Derrick Goodman, Paul Hakken, and Jake Wilkes in August, 2011. According to police reports, the two suspects who were arrested said they were tired of seeing Papa John's trucks driving by their store and thought their business would increase if it were no longer open. Before the fire, the three entrepreneurs increased sales nearly 50 percent above the previous owner's revenues the year before - achieving the highest year increase among all Papa John's national franchises.
The three owners have spent the past five months rebuilding the store themselves from the ground up. The store is located at 2815 W. US Highway 90 in Lake City, Florida.
In another remarkable move, Goodman, Hakken and Wilkes have continued to pay their eight employees, two of whom are single mothers, by working as delivery drivers and performing remodeling work for other Papa John's franchises. Recently, the trio drove more than 30 hours to Arkansas to pick up new kitchen equipment which they installed themselves in their store at a savings of nearly $10,000.
"In spite of all the damage and the impact it's had on us and our business, we have been fortunate to have incredible support from friends, family and community, all of which has enabled us to rebuild our store brick by brick," said Jake Wilkes, co-owner of the Lake City Papa John's franchise. "We are grateful to continue to do what we love, run our business and serve great Papa John's pizza."
Firefighters from the Lake City Fire Department, whom Wilkes credits with saving the building, are expected to attend the ribbon cutting.