TOP PHOTO: Though Jerry Partin is calling it a career, the legendary Charley’s Pizza will continue.
JACKSBORO, TN. (WLAF)- For many, it’s hard to imagine Charley’s Pizza without the affable Jerry Partin at the helm. But as of Jan. 1, Partin is hanging up his apron.
“It has been one good experience after another,” Partin said. Seated at the first booth on the left on a rainy afternoon Partin smiled talking about the last four decades.
In 1981, he started in the kitchen at the pizza place that is synonymous with Campbell County. His interview with Charley “Goat” Baird, the owner at the time, was brief. Partin asked for a job and Baird’s response was “Just be here at 5pm.”
“I have been here ever since,” Partin said. Having worked at Pizza Hut previously, it was an easy transition for him. The next transition was of another kind; he went from being an employee to the owner. For the last 17 years, Partin has been the face of the restaurant after buying it from the Baird family.
Owning what is arguably the town’s most visited restaurant, Partin sees it as more a family.
“I have had some of the best kids come through those doors,” he said. “They have kept me young.”
He can recount the teenagers who turned into employees who turned into family. Partin can recite what most of them ended up doing in life. This makes him proud that he was able to give them a start. But he can also remember the few they lost. These losses still hurt.
Now, as his final week draws closer, he is excited to hand the reigns to the next owner, Dustin Stooksbury. “People just need to stay loyal. It will be the same,” Partin said of the transition. “I am glad to see him get the opportunity.”
Knowing how to operate a business and understanding what customers want is what set Partin apart in the community. That is one of the first things he teaches new employees. “I tell the waitresses, ‘Make sure the customers have something to drink’,” he said. “We have tried to create a friendly atmosphere.”
Special order and creative pizzas also become Partin’s trademark. Whether it was couple from California that would bring their own anchovies for Partin to add to their pizza or a sauerkraut pizza, “with extra sauerkraut,” Partin aimed to please his customers. That is why he added the taco pizza, dessert pizzas, Philly steak sandwiches and burgers. “I always made the special requests,” he said. After years of making pizza, Partin said the secret to a perfect pizza is simple, “You have to put it together right.”
Through the years, he has made pizzas but other menu items were also trucked out of the Jacksboro location. In the 1980’s, an order was placed for 350 sandwiches and chips for a rally. “We made them and delivered them in a bread truck.” Hot dogs were also ordered by the dozen. An order of 300 was once handled by a three-person assembly line. For Partin, orders like this weren’t about revenue they were about being a part of the community.
Partin feels honored to have been a part of the local culture.
“This place is where people come to congregate,” he said. And while he knows they were coming for the food and comradery, Partin got something out of it too.
He had a front row seat to watch the next generation of Campbell Countians. “I enjoyed watching the kids come in here and see them excited to make their mark on the world.”
Thinking about what life looks like next month, Partin is a man with many thoughts about it. He is excited to spend time with his wife, Connie, who retired last year. Working with his church is also on the agenda. But he knows that even with a full itinerary, things will be different.
“I am just going to miss it all,” he said. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISED 12/12/2022- 6AM)