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Economy doesnt spook Papa Johns franchisees
Chris Callegari, front left, and Angela Johal, front right, flank Papa John’s franchise business director Kevin Stepison as they prepare to open the first San Joaquin Valley franchise that is being located in the Raley’s shopping center in Manteca. - photo by DENNIS WYATT

Angela Johal and Chris Callegari aren’t listening to the economic doom and gloom.

Instead, they are forging ahead with plans on Thursday to open the first of two initial Papa John’s Pizza franchises in the Northern San Joaquin Valley with plans to ultimately have 10. The second store will open soon in Tracy.

“I do believe in the economy,” Johal said Tuesday as part of the initial staff of 40 workers were undergoing training at the Papa John’s opening this week in the Union Square Center anchored by Raley’s Superstore at Union Road and Lathrop Road in north Manteca.

The partners did extensive research on Manteca - and Papa John’s - before deciding to invest in both.

“All the excitement about Bass Pro caught our attention,” Johal point out.

Callegari, who had worked for Intel for 16 years, was already aware of Manteca since her parents moved into Del Webb at Woodbridge two years ago. Johal, who has bought a home in the valley after her son graduated from high school, has a sister who lives in Woodbridge near Lodi.

They have hired 40 workers – virtually all Manteca residents – from 100 applicants interviewed.

“We had over 200 applicants just from word of mouth and we are still getting them,” Johal said.

What impressed her most was the willingness of all of the applicants to work.

“I come from 17 years in the HR (human resources) field and I’ve never seen as many applicants dress so professional for a minimum wage job,” she said.

They may hire up to 15 more workers – including drivers. Johal said she believes she has a high enough caliber of workers that they will be able to glean future management personnel from them to help run the Manteca store and other locations.

Going with Papa John’s was a no brainer for Johal.

“They have better ingredients and better pizza,” Johal said, adding that it has always been her pizza of choice due to what she called its better taste and superior crust.

Johal rattled off various ingredients and where they came from including sauce that is made in Stanislaus County going from being picked to finished product in less than six hours as well as olives from Spain and baby Portobello mushrooms.

“Ingredients make the big difference,” she added.

Kevin Stepison, the franchise business director for a number of western states, noted the Manteca store is the first Papa John’s franchise in the San Joaquin Valley.

Callegari said they targeted their research for a location in Manteca in two areas – the north and the south. They ultimately dismissed The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley as being a bit too pricey given there is currently only limited retail.

She indicated that working with the city has proven to be interesting.

An example was a handicap counter. She noted in other California jurisdictions Papa John’s was allowed to place it in the end where it could swing up and down with ease. Manteca wanted it in the middle of the front counter. It was a new requirement for the vendors that have provided Papa John’s franchises with counters elsewhere in California. They complied and it cost $1,000 more but that wasn’t what concerned Callegari.

“It was the $1,000 as much as time is money,” Callegari said noting it added two weeks to the process.

She added it was a learning experience as they had just assumed it would be easier to work with a smaller city.

Papa John’s is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to midnight. On-line orders can be placed by going to and following the instructions.

The Manteca Chamber of Commerce is conducting a ribbon cutting on Thursday at 4 p.m.