Stephen Burge is a family man, and his “family” extends beyond his wife and seven children. The former chemistry and physics teacher bought the Johnny’s Pizza located on Sugarloaf Parkway in December 2015. He’s proud of the fact that his employees include some of his own children and a couple of former Archer high school students.
The leap from high school teacher to pizza restaurant owner might sound like a big one, and in some ways, it was. “We don’t get summers off,” he said. “That’s kind of hard, since my wife is also a teacher. I miss having that time with my family, but I try to work it so that I get as many days (and holidays) off as possible.”
Left: Stephen and Jennifer Burge on the patio at Johnnys.
The leap wasn’t exactly blind, though. Burge spent about 8 years running Team Trivia for several Johnny’s Pizza locations before buying his restaurant. “One day, a Johnny’s owner asked me jokingly if I wanted to buy the place. I said ‘sure,’” Burge laughed. He didn’t buy that location, but he did make some phone calls and learned that the Sugarloaf location was for sale.
“I had planned to continue teaching and run the restaurant, but I quickly saw that in order to make sure things run smoothly at the restaurant, I had to quit teaching,” he said. After 21 years of teaching, the last few of which were spent at Archer high school, the new restaurateur hung up his teaching hat. He misses it, but this new venture is an exciting challenge.
Burge misses having summers off, but as a Johnny’s Pizza owner, he gets to set his own hours and be his own boss. There’s a lot to be said for that. “I don’t miss having to get up at 5 a.m., that’s for sure,” Burge laughed. “And our customers here are great. I’ve been to a lot of Johnny’s locations. They’re all great, but I think ours is different, more laid back, ” he said. “Our regulars are great and every week, we’re seeing new people coming in.”
Right: Stephen atop Stone Mountain
The former teacher-turned-entrepreneur likes the fact that some of his children work for him, off and on. His 19-year-old son, a college student, works at the restaurant. Sometimes, even one of his middle-school-age children will come in to wash dishes. Two of his former Archer students work for him. In a way, he’s still teaching young people.
Left: Pizza party!
Stephen Burge, as owner of Johnny’s Pizza – Sugarloaf, is a great example of the value of a small business in the community. Customers know him by name. They keep coming back because the food is good, but they also frequent the restaurant because of the people who own it and who work there.
Johnny’s Pizza – Sugarloaf is located at 3157 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville. Team Trivia nights are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The restaurant offers dine-in, take-out and delivery service, a full bar with 21 beers on tap, pizza by the slice, and a party room that seats about 70 people, for large corporate or community gatherings. The restaurant phone number is 678-985-8288.