John Schnatter cares about pizza, but not as much as he enjoys cars, or at least one car — his 1971 Chevy Camaro Z28. And he’s so glad to have his prized possession back after losing track of the car for more than a quarter century, the owner of Papa John’s pizza chain is dishing out free pizzas Wednesday.
It all began in 1983. Schnatter’s father, an Indiana bar owner, was on the verge of bankruptcy. Schnatter sold his most valuable possession, a black-and-gold striped Camaro for $2,800 to help his family.
With the proceeds, Schnatter bought some equipment and started selling pizzas out of a broom closet of his dad’s bar, digging their way out of bankruptcy one pizza at a time. The side business became Papa John’s, the country’s third-largest pizza chain.
But Schnatter (he’s pictured with his Camaro in 1971) lways wanted his Camaro back. And last week, after a nationwide campaign and increasing the reward from $25,00 to $250,000, Schnatter’s bought his car back from its third owner — and everyone is happy.
Schnatter is so pleased he’s offering a free pizza Wednesday (August 26) to anyone who drives their Camaro to a Papa John’s location.
“The Camaro represents what I gave up to start Papa John’s,” said Schnatter. “Words cannot capture the emotions I am feeling….I never gave up hope that someday I would get that car back.”
Schnatter didn’t say how many pizzas he expects to distribute, but he can afford. Papa John’s is worth an estimated $750 million.