Oak Harbor Papa Murphy’s appeal continues in new location

Josh and Mishal Rowley have lived and breathed Papa Murphy’s for more than a decade. Papa Murphy’s, the largest take and bake pizza company in the world and the fifth largest pizza chain in the country, has made a name for itself by scrutinizing franchisees and supplying a product that few people can resist.

Josh Rowley

Josh and Mishal Rowley have lived and breathed Papa Murphy’s for more than a decade.

Papa Murphy’s, the largest take and bake pizza company in the world and the fifth largest pizza chain in the country, has made a name for itself by scrutinizing franchisees and supplying a product that few people can resist.

Since taking over the Oak Harbor store in June of 1996, the Rowleys have set themselves apart from other business owners. Whether picking up a pre-ordered pizza at the new drive-thru or placing an order inside, it is not uncommon to find Josh working alongside his committed employees.

“I’m the owner, operator, manager,” he said. “I’m kind of a rarity in the Papa Murphy’s business. A lot of them are absentee owners. I’m a dying breed.”

Fast food restaurants often see an eight-month turnover rate among employees, Rowley said. His turnover rate is approximately two years.

“I have employees who have worked here for 10 years,” he said. “My employees are fantastic and very loyal.”

The business’s quality product and uncommonly efficient work crew has helped the Oak Harbor Papa Murphy’s monopolize the Best Pizza award in the annual Best of Whidbey voting. Since 2000, Rowley has been edged out only once. This year found the popular pizza joint back on top.

Reluctant to toot his own horn, Rowley divulged, under duress, that his store ranks in the top 25 nationally for its consistently booming business. And Papa Murphy’s has 1,200 stores nationwide.

“I like to think of this business as ‘recession proof,’” he said. “People can always afford our pizza. And our menu allows people to eat as healthy as they want. We’ve had diabetics able to eat dLITE line of pizzas. And our salads are very popular.”

Papa Murphy’s, headquartered in Vancouver, Wash., came into its own when it began using all fresh dough and ingredients, as well as an expanded menu. Rowley likes to point out that a family can get a great meal for under $15. As proof, a family size pepperoni pizza and cheesy bread comes in at $14.59.

“We do everything here,” he said. “And because it’s take and bake, our overhead is lower and we can keep the prices reasonable.”

Rowley had been searching long and hard for the ideal location to relocate. His search ended when he found 1100 SW Bowmer. The store was previously located in the Safeway shopping complex.

“With Barrington connected, we’re really on the ‘going home side’ and we’re much more visible,” the franchise owner said. “We get the soccer moms and families who want a quick and easy dinner. And a good one.”

As property and building owner, Rowley was able to install a drive-thru window, one of only a handful of stores nationwide with the feature.

“The drive-thru has been huge,” he said. Orders need to be placed at least 15 minutes before picking up the pizza to keep everything moving. Many repeat customers already have the phone number on their speed dial, so calling ahead is no problem.

“We’ve had so many positive comments about the drive-thru,” Rowley said. “It’s actually been overwhelming. The dynamics have completely changed. And changed for the better.”

The Rowleys have been able to get out of Papa Murphy’s exactly what they have put in. And they have put in a lot.

“It’s been great for our family. And I think I’m the only one who has a disco ball,” he said with a laugh.

Papa Murphy’s, located at 1100 SW Bowmer near Wal-Mart, can be reached at 675-5505.

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