BROOKINGS – There’s a new franchise owner in town. In mid-June, Papa Murphy’s Take ’N’ Bake Pizza of Brookings changed hands. The business is now under the management of local, veteran-owned Aabro, LLC (“Aabro” for the owner’s two sons, Aaron and Brody). Brookings resident Jeff Miller is running the full-time daily operations of the retail pizza favorite, with his wife Serenity Miller employed as a part-time manager behind the scenes.
“It was my favorite pizza long before I owned the place,” Jeff says, pointing out that he and his family have been Papa Murphy’s customers for many years. “As we were going through the franchise process, we were looking back and realizing just how many memories we have as a family in this place. It’s one of those things where a door opens out of nowhere, and you ask God, ‘Can I go this way?’ and he says, ‘OK,’ so you do, and life changes.”
“We’d had our ear to the ground for a couple of years, staying open to what a business opportunity might look like for Jeff, and the timing in 2020 has been just crazy,” Serenity said. “We didn’t expect to be business owners this year. We didn’t expect to be buying a business in the middle of a global pandemic.”
“But there we were,” she continues, “back in February, and we got the email update from the Brookings Economic Development Corporation, saying the Papa Murphy’s franchise owner was retiring and ready to sell. We started looking into it, we began the franchise process, we started signing things, and there was a COVID-19 crisis … and we were like ‘Well, that’s interesting – now what?’ Turns out restaurant-quality take-and-bake pizza that you can order ahead, pick up, and bring home with you is a really, really great idea for the times we’re in.”
All over the country, in fact, the Papa Murphy’s chain has found itself uniquely positioned to continue providing quick, convenient pick-up service for customers, with very little about the business model being impacted by restrictions on gatherings or social distancing guidelines.
“We’re wearing masks; we’re sanitizing,” Jeff says. “Our lobby is open, and we can keep serving customers, business as usual, rain or shine.”
Since the change of ownership in June, “business as usual” now includes a significant improvement for the location: under Aabro, LLC’s management, online ordering is now available in Brookings.
“Online ordering is huge,” Jeff says. “In today’s world, when you want to pick up food, you automatically go online expecting to be able to order. That wasn’t an option with Papa Murphy’s in Brookings for a long time, and now it is. You can order online from your phone before you leave work, and by the time you get to the store, we usually already have your pizza ready for you. So you can just walk in, pick it up, and be on your way home, with a fresh dinner for the family that takes less than 15 minutes to bake when you get there. Boom.”
Besides saving time in line, there’s another benefit to online ordering: all chain-wide Papa Murphy’s deals are automatically applied at checkout.
“One question we keep hearing is ‘So are you going to start honoring the specials now?’” Serenity laughs. “Yes, the Brookings location honors all of the specials now.”
Improving the customer experience is part of the joys of business ownership for Jeff, along with opportunities to positively impact quality of life for workers and provide jobs for locals. Already, the Papa Murphy’s team in Brookings has doubled with new hires since June, and more opportunities for growth are expected later in the fall.
For the Millers, this is what it’s all about. The two are deeply connected in the Brookings area, with family roots nearby and 40 years of combined experience in a variety of local settings. Together, their diverse histories bring a wealth of management, hospitality, communications, and leadership experience to back their passion for building up the people around them.
Jeff, for instance, has an extensive background in quality assurance and quality control – at one point, even producing cheese made by Land O’ Lakes in Volga, which was used by this particular Papa Murphy’s location in Brookings at the time.
From other leading companies such as Rainbow Play Systems and Valero Renewables, Jeff brings years of management/supervisory experience, along with expertise in process efficiency, which is already improving product flow and output at the pizza store. Outside of work, Jeff has enjoyed volunteering with several local nonprofit organizations and groups geared toward helping people make meaningful life changes. Serenity says, “Jeff cares about what he does, and he’s good at helping people see that what they do matters.”
Overall, in any setting, the Millers work to equip and empower people to make a difference in the world around them, starting with everyday actions in immediate circles of influence. That’s where a Papa Murphy’s franchise comes into their bigger picture. Everything about the Papa Murphy’s culture is designed to support meaningful connections, which is why the Millers fell in love with the brand.
In fact, the Millers took some brand-new Papa Murphy’s tools for a test drive this week with their first Brookings area online fundraiser to support the Brookings County Youth Mentoring Program on Monday, Sept. 14. On that day, all online orders placed at www.papamurphys.com for pick-up in Brookings, the business donated 15% of proceeds toward BCYMP’s mission to provide one-to-one adult mentoring for at-risk K-12 youth.
“We’re not in this to get rich,” Jeff explains. “We’ve been blessed, and we want to see others blessed, too. That’s why we’re in business.”
For more information, contact Serenity Miller, manager of Aabro, LLC, at [email protected]