Crusty Broussard: Pizza is the story of his life

Published 9:58 am Monday, July 27, 2009

Donnie Broussard

Age: 75

Occupation: Pizza Inn Franchisee of the Year, owner

Community connection: He makes lunch for Port Neches.

Fast fact: Jo Jo is the name of the mustachioed Pizza Inn mascot. Broussard’s watch has his pizza-making image.

Quick Quote: “That’s the story of my life, really. Pizza.”

By Darragh Doiron

The News staff writer

PORT NECHES — Donnie Broussard drives a stretch to get to the Port Neches Pizza in by 5:30 a.m. He’s got breakfast to make. Ham, egg and sausage top his early morning creations. As the clock ticks toward lunch, he fills those rounds with his favorite pairing: Pepperoni and jalapeno.

Hundreds of slices later, if it’s a Friday, he’ll bring a box home to his wife.

“That’s the story of my life, really. Pizza,” Broussard said.

It makes the company happy. Pizza Inn named 75-year-old Broussard and his business Franchisee of the Year at a June meeting at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Miss. He signed his initial agreement in 1966 and opened on Nov. 20, 1967. He now runs the Port Neches store on Magnolia Avenue that has been open 35 years.

It’s not unusual for the store to go through 1,950 pounds of flour a week and Broussard himself consumes his wares often. He said he knows why loyal diners flock to his lunch buffet from a 35-mile radius. Pizza is “happy eating,” he said.

“It’s a healthy food. They want a good sauce and good food and more choices,” he said. “I have a lot that eat here three times a week.”

Broussard is “crusty” in more ways than one. He’s got a teasing tongue and says he’ll have to charge extra for conversation, but it’s evident he’s as sweet as he is spicy. He and other diners serve each other a heap of razzing when he visits tables.

Customer Frank Kotz often exchanges in colorful conversation with Broussard.“He’s one of the nicest guys there is. He’s good away from the store, too,” Kotz said.

Employee Audriana Hightower wiped down tables as she shared her thoughts on Broussard.

“He makes sure we’re always doing everything right. He’s a good man,” she said.

Broussard said his hours don’t allow him as much civic duty as he’d like, but he said he loves supporting the Port Neches Chamber of Commerce, schools, the Sabine Area Restaurant Association and other projects. Portraits of the current Port Neches-Groves Indian Spirit mascot hang in the dining room and statues representing the PN-G Indian and Nederland High School Bulldogs greet visitors in the lobby.

Decades ago, Broussard said he quit work at Texaco because he believed the Pizza Inn would take off.

“I knew you could make some money making pizza. It’s a complete meal,” he said.

That pizza he takes to Irma each Friday is her weekly thank you. He said his wife worked at the restaurant for many years, so she understands his challenges and hours and supports him. He says he couldn’t have been successful without her.

That crusty nature dissolves when he thinks about all those pizza lovers who come back for more.

“I love people. You have to,” he said.

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