Abby Broughton sees his name everywhere.
It’s on Interstate 5 exit signs and lit up on the streets he drives each day. It’s on TV commercials and all over the inserts in the newspaper.
It’s hard to escape, but it’s not as if the co-founder — and namesake — of Abby’s Legendary Pizza would want to escape it. He said it’s been fun having his childhood nickname attached to such a popular brand, and made his retirement in the Roseburg area that much sweeter.
Albert Broughton, 76, was called “Alby” as a kid. But not long after she met him at Riddle High School, Broughton’s wife, Connie, started calling him “Abby” because she said it had a better ring to it.
“Abby” is an important word to the Abby’s Legendary Pizza chain. When Broughton and co-founder Bob Harrell, aka “Skinny,” sold the chain in 1988 to a group of six Phoenix investors, they kept it, adding the word “legendary” in homage.
But don’t call it a joint, at least not in front of Abby.
“I hate that word, ‘joint,’” he said from across a table at the Abby’s on Northeast Stephens Street in Roseburg.
Abby’s is a pizza restaurant, he said — a clean, comfortable place where you can take your kids. Not a pizza joint.
He says he isn’t entirely comfortable talking to a reporter inside an Abby’s. Since selling the chain, he and Harrell have tried to remain hands-off. Harrell said it was years before he stepped foot in one again. But people like knowing there’s a real Abby out there, Broughton said. He shook several hands before leaving.
It was at the Stephens Street location that it all started, nearly 50 years and three remodels ago. The story of Abby and Abby’s is a retelling of the American Dream if ever there was one.
It started in 1964, when two high school friends set out to open their own restaurant.
Broughton and Harrell met at Riddle High School. After the military and earning an associate degree, Broughton managed several pizza establishments, and his old classmate joined him as an employee. They looked for an opportunity to go into business together and saw Roseburg as an ideal location.
Newly married to his high-school sweetheart, Broughton got a small loan from one of his wife’s uncles.
“We opened up that first day and thought, ‘Boy, I hope someone shows up,’” Harrell said.
They put in 16-hour days and started building up a staff. A couple of years later, they opened a second restaurant in Grants Pass. Harrell moved to manage a third place in Medford. A Eugene restaurant followed.
Before long, they were building restaurants nearly faster than they could staff them.
For Harrell, who prefers working in the background, naming the restaurant after Broughton meant anonymity in the kitchen. The name to him conjures images of fox hunts and quaint, cobbled roads in the English countryside. The restaurant’s original logo featured an English abbey in neon.
“It’s also comes first in the Yellow Pages,” Harrell noted.
For Broughton, it’s sometimes a little awkward. He remembers waiting in line at an Abby’s as a customer, listening to a stranger in front of him say he helped “Abby” get into business.
Since cashing out of the pizza business, Broughton got into the cattle industry and, as a pastime, bought and restored ranches in the Western U.S. He and Harrell have kept houses in Borrego Springs in Southern California as well as Southern Oregon.
Broughton is an avid hunter and he and his wife are crack golfers. They still help with the Abby’s invitational golf tournament at the Roseburg Country Club each year.
They worked so hard, he said, the years flew by.
“All of the sudden we woke up one day and it was over. We’d sold the place,” he said.
His business partner and his wife and daughter all said Abby Broughton has mellowed considerably with age.
“It’s fun to have things work out,” Broughton said. “We had a really good run.”
• Reporter Garrett Andrews can be reached at 541-957-4218 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
All of the sudden we woke up one day and it was over. We’d sold the place.
co-founder of Abby’s Legendary Pizza