Pizza for the people
By Vanta E. Coda III

On a dark early morning, Chris Linville, 46, account manager and delivery driver for Pizza Wholesale of Lexington Inc., founding distributor of Hunt Brothers Pizza, makes his first stop to Old Bridge General Store in Salvisa.

When their first handmade pizza rolled out of the family garage in 1976, Jim Hunt had one goal: to connect with his neighbors. In 1991, Jim and his brothers founded what is now Hunt Brothers Pizza.

Today, the Hunt Brothers Pizza distribution organization is one of Paris' largest employers, and its pizza is for sale at more than 9,000 locations across 30 states. The company is still expanding, reaching even more neighbors, be they 10 miles or 1,000 miles away.

Erin Ferguson, Jim Hunt's daughter, leads distribution, overseeing the connections between the company's offices in Paris and store owners and managers.

Many rural communities lack restaurant options. Hunt Brothers Pizza brings freshly-made goodness, one slice at a time.

"The store owners trust us with providing a viable pizza business, which forms an even deeper connection," Erin says.

That connection is embodied by account manager and delivery driver Chris Linville. Every Wednesday before sunrise, Chris climbs into his 20-foot cold plate truck and delivers pizza and supplies to stores in Central Kentucky.

“This is my route, my towns, my people,” Chris says. “You definitely form a bond with them.”

That bond is evident with each delivery, and Linville sees people on good days and challenging days. Recently, he lent a sympathetic ear as a customer discussed her mom's brain aneurysm. He gets to know them on a deeply personal level.

And, while bonding with customers, he's fulfilling the legacy that the Hunt Brothers started more than 50 years ago – taking care of neighbors.

After finishing his delivery, Chris talks to Somer Goff, 35, co-owner of Tucker’s Tiki Bar & Grill., about her mother’s brain aneurysm. Chris gets to know his customers on a personal level, having delivered to many of them for years.

Chris Clem, 48, warehouse specialist, loads a freezer truck that is scheduled to leave that afternoon. “They take good care of us here,” he says. “Whatever we need, they get it for us so we are comfortable.”

With the morning business rush in full effect at Mr. Miser Food Mart in Perryville, Chris makes his second delivery. “This store has been family owned since the '70s,” he says. “You don’t see that a lot nowadays.”

First light breaks over the rolling hills of Central Kentucky as Chris smiles out onto the open road in front of him.

Chris Clem, 46, and Cody Honeycutt, 28, both warehouse specialists, work regularly throughout the day in sub-zero temperatures in the cold vault. They are responsible for loading pizzas.

Chris breaks down boxes at Mr. Miser Food Mart in Perryville.. “You form a bond with these store owners when you come in every week, you know,” he says. “You become invested in their lives.”

After finishing his deliveries for the day, Chris plugs in the truck’s freezer battery to keep it frozen overnight.

In one of the larger orders of the day, Chris pushes an overflowing cart of pizzas, toppings and supplies toward the doors of Cornerstone Travel Plaza in Campbellsville.

In a quiet neighborhood in Paris, Erin Hunt Ferguson, 50, president of Pizza Wholesale of Lexington Inc., a founding distributor of Hunt Brothers Pizza, stands in front of the garage where her father Jim Hunt started Pizza Wholesale of Lexington Inc. “At first my dad was just giving pizza away to the Paris community,” Erin says. “Now we are giving pizza across many communities.”

Dawn approaches as Chris carries out the final box of his order for Old Bridge General Store, in Salvisa.