Dunsmuir Pizza Factory is 'a labor of love'

Misa Maruyama
Dunsmuir Pizza Factory owners Gary and Jeannie Rogers sit with their family: Alaya, Matt, Marlee and Colin

The walls of the Dunsmuir Pizza Factory are covered with snapshots of children celebrating birthdays, anglers proudly holding up large bass and high school graduation photos taken since the late 1980s. It looks like a massive family photo album. And, in a way, it is.

“We love getting to know the families here. It’s fun to watch them grow up,” Gary Rogers said.

Gary Rogers and his wife, Jeannie, opened their Dunsmuir Avenue pizza shop on May 8, 1986 with the help of their landlord, Guido Joseph Mei. The Rogers say Mei renovated the space for them and held the rent steady for 24 years, until he died last October.

Thanks in part to Mei’s confidence and support, the couple’s business has thrived for nearly a quarter century.  During that time, the Rogers said they’ve provided jobs to 275 young people in Dunsmuir.

 The Rogers say they try to teach strong work ethic and customer service skills to their teenage employees, many of whom had never held a job before.

“You don’t walk in two minutes late, and you don’t leave two minutes early,” Gary Rogers said he tells his employees. The Rogers also try to instill certain values.

“Your family comes first, then school, sports – then your job,” Gary Rogers said.

For their contributions to the community, the Rogers were recognized as citizens of the month by the Dunsmuir City Council on March 17.

Mayor Nick Mitchell calls the couple Dunsmuir’s unsung heroes.

“Gary and Jeannie are always donating to all the local causes and events. They support the high school and elementary schools,” Mitchell said.

As just one example, the Rogers have donated food and drink certificates to Dunsmuir Elementary School, so the staff can reward students for positive behavior. They also offer deep discounts to the school for parties, athletic events and other activities, said DES principal Kale Riccomini.

“It shows their business really cares about the youth in Dunsmuir,” Riccomini said. “During these tough economic times, they could have cut back. But, if anything, they have become more generous.”

The Rogers have a community presence that many people have come to expect. Jeannie Rogers served as the Railroad Days Committee president for five years and held a seat on the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce board. And as Dunsmuir’s population has dwindled and businesses have closed or left town, the Pizza Factory has remained open 362 days a year.

Keeping the doors open hasn’t always been easy, the Rogers say.

Gary and Jeannie Rogers each clocked in about 100 hours a week for their first decade. They even set up a cot downstairs for naps. Now they work about five days a week, commuting 140 miles round trip each day from their home in the Scott Valley.

The Rogers say it’s a labor of love.

“The town’s been good to us,” Gary Rogers said. “They’ve really supported us over the years.”