Pizza boss pays $250,000 to buy his first car backThursday 3rd September
When the founder of the UK's fastest growing pizza chain parted company with his beloved car 25 years ago, it was so that he could help keep his father's tavern afloat and ultimately launch Papa John's.
And with each of the 3,400 stores he has opened since, John Schnatter, Chairman of Papa John's pizza has continued to think about the cherished 1971 Chevrolet Camaro - and the $2,800 that allowed him to embark on his journey.
As the chain's global success gathered pace, John paid tribute to the vital role played by his car in the birth of Papa John's (pictures can be found adorning the walls of all UK stores), and even purchased a replica to take pride of place in the company's Louisville headquarters.
But the business guru hankered after a reunion with the original, and at the beginning of this year he commissioned a worldwide search to ascertain whether it still existed - and as a result the magical car has now transformed another life.
Jeff Robinson of Flatwoods, Kentucky, USA, never really knew just how shrewd an investment the $4,500 he paid for the car five years ago was - until 'Papa' John Schnatter came calling with a reward of $250,000 for returning the car to his ownership.
The Z28 Camaro is now back in John's hands, and the pizza boss believes it is worth every penny.
He said: "The Camaro represents what I gave up to start Papa John's," says Schnatter. "Words cannot capture the emotions I am feeling in getting back that part of my history.
"I didn't have much back then, but for my business dreams to come true, I had to part with the one asset I had to my name, and even then there were no promises of success. I never gave up hope that one day I would get that car back."
Papa John's UK marketing director Simon Wallis is delighted with the news and is hoping that the car may soon make an appearance in this country.
He said: "The story of how John founded this business is a compelling one, and his passion for making great pizzas with quality ingredients is instilled into everyone in the business.
"He regularly visits the UK and we are looking into the possibility of getting the Camaro over to this country and it has been a star for so long on our website, menus and in-store that it would be great to take the real thing round our stores."
In the meantime, Papa John's is now searching for any UK Camaro owners to help them celebrate the find - with free pizza on offer for any that come forward.
"We thought it would be great to see what Camaros were around in the UK, and we're happy to reward anyone with a free pizza who collects it from our store in one of the cars.
"If we can find anyone with a 1971 Z28, the same model as John's, then we will happily supply them with complimentary Papa John's pizzas for the entire year."
Papa John's is currently enjoying great success in the UK, with record store openings and recently reported sales growth of 14%.
The brand hit the headlines last year when it became the first UK pizza chain to use 100% fresh dough for all of its pizzas.