Owner of Pharaoh's Pizza brings 'unique' pizza taste to Danville

July 06, 2004|JOHN T. DAVIS

It makes Lari Busker angry when someone speaks disparagingly about "flipping burgers" for a living.

Busker started out in the restaurant business 22 years ago when he gave up a job that required a lot of traveling and began managing a pizza restaurant in Laurel County. He likes the restaurant business and believes that for people who are willing to work hard, it can provide a good living.

"I love the restaurant business, the interaction with employees and customers," Busker said. "I've always referred to it as a 'people business.'"

This spring, Busker opened Pharaoh's Pizza in the Kroger shopping center off the Danville bypass. It is his second Pharaoh's store. He opened the first, in Harrodsburg, about five years ago.


His two store "chain" has a lot of competition

His two-store "chain" is competing against the big boys in the pizza business with names like Pizza Hut, Papa John's and Little Caesars. Pharaoh's, however, belongs solely to Busker and his wife, Diana, who came up with the name after an Internet search to determine if any other pizza companies were using it.

And while the large companies might have an advantage in advertising and name recognition, Busker sees plenty of advantages to local ownership and management.

"We do everything here on the premises," he said. "We make our own dough ... make our own pizza sauce. We have our own recipe that didn't come out of a franchise."

Rather than being at the mercy of dictates from a corporate headquarters, Pharaoh's can listen to its customers, Busker said.

"The way we have done it in the past is we let the customers decide," he said. "If they don't like something, we don't do it. If they like it, we try to do it the best we can.

"When you own your own store, you don't have to call the office to see if you can do something."

Busker, who came to Danville to run a Noble Roman's pizza restaurant and also managed a local Lil Caesar's, says he is very particular about the freshness of his product. For instance, he buys the produce that goes into his salads daily.

"I know if I cut it this morning, it's going to be fresh tonight," he said. "If I go to the grocery and get it, I know it's fresh."

Another way Busker competes with the large chains is by making sure his pizzas have a unique taste.

"This pizza is not like other pizzas," he said. "It's different. It's got a unique taste to it. When you bite into it, you know it is ours."

He also focuses on service and price.

"We strive daily to give a superior product, superior service and, I believe, at a very fair price," Busker said. "I know, overall, we are the low-cost provider here in Danville."

Second store fulfills long-term goal

By opening his second store, Busker has fulfilled a long-term goal of opening a store in Danville, where the family lives. The second store also has provided an opportunity for Travis Irvin, who had been with the company for four years as an assistant manager in Harrodsburg.

"Travis has been in the system for so long ... now he can come over here and be a manager," Busker said. "If he sees something that can be changed and it won't hurt our quality, service or cleanliness, he can do that. He has the latitude to do that."

Like a lot of small business owners, Busker likes the fact that his family can be involved in Pharaoh's. "It's something we can all do together," he said.

Diana Busker helps out Irvin at the Danville restaurant, and the Buskers' teen-age son, Tristan, works at both of the restaurants. Their daughter, Rhiannon, is the exception. Playing drums in the Danville High School band, violin in the Heritage Area String Program and singing in the Danville Children's Choir keeps her plenty busy.

Someday, after the Danville restaurant is firmly established, Busker said he might open another Pharaoh's in the area. But he never wants to get away from being involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurants. Even after 22 years in the business, he said, "I still learn something every day."

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