GRAYSON A Carter County institution opened under new management on Tuesday.
Chris and Brooke McFarland sold Johnny’s Pizza to two local couples — Erik and Ashley Kouns and Steven and Paige Keyes; the two men are first cousins.
Mrs. Kouns said they were friends with the McFarlands, who had expressed an interest in selling the business because they wanted a change. The Kouns decided to try it out by working there.
"Erik fell in love with it," she said. "He really enjoys being there and working with the public, and he loves the employees. I was really shocked he enjoyed it as much as he did."
Kouns said his wife is right.
"I worked in the kitchen. I shadowed everybody — the servers, the cooks, the dishwashers," he said. "I saw what everybody did. It takes everybody working together no matter what you do."
Kouns’s cousin had the same thought, so he and his wife offered to go in on the business.
"We did it to help them," Keyes said. "We’re first cousins and we’ve always been close. We went to school together and our kids go to school together."
He said all four of the owners have full-time jobs, making owning an eatery a challenge.
"We thought if we all went in together, it would make it easier for everybody," Keyes said.
Running a business isn’t new for the Keyeses, and Ashley Kouns owns a hair salon. She said she also worked at her aunt’s convenience store/restaurant in Elliott County and her father owned a service station.
Johnny’s Pizza originated in Columbus and was sold to Jeff Mills, who brought it to Grayson. He eventually sold to the McFarlands.
Mrs. Kouns said they might expand the dining room, but the menu will remain the same, except for some seasonal additions.
Her husband said they are concentrating on keep the food original, and they will special order ingredients to keep the taste of the pizza the same.
Kouns said he also was a fan of the restaurant.
"It’s one of my favorite restaurants," he said. "It’s always clean and because of the freshness and quality of the food. They offer a wide range of food, including baked potato, which everyone loves and is unusual at a pizza restaurant."
Kouns said his favorite foods at Johnny’s are the wings and calzones. His wife said she loves the meatballs and Keyes said he likes the wings and pizza.
Kouns said he and his wife have always enjoyed the eatery’s atmosphere, too.
"It’s a small, hole-in-the-wall in the old part of town that I’d like to see improve," he said, adding they also bought the building next door, possibly as part of expanding the dining area.
Mrs. Kouns said buying the restaurant was a risk, but one worth taking.
"We’re taking a plunge," she said. "If you enjoy something you’ll be better at it and I love people and to talk to people."
Her husband agreed.
"We love the community and we’re excited to be involved in a different way," he said.
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Johnny’s Pizza in Grayson is open for curbside and carryout orders and uses the app called Toast. Repeat uses can earn points toward discounts and free items.