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Man's best friend: New pizza restaurant takes inspiration from proprietor's pet

Ron Harper wasn't out of the game for long.


Ron Harper feeds a piece of pizza to his dog Cody, the inspiration for his new pizza restaurant in Camellia Plaza, Black Dog Pizza.
Elwood Hamilton
After the longtime Thomson insurance agent sold his Allstate agency in November, he started looking for something else to occupy his time.

And it didn't take him long to find it.

Mr. Harper hopes to open his new restaurant, Black Dog Pizza, at the beginning of February in Camellia Plaza. He said the decision to stay in McDuffie County was an easy one.

"It's the American dream to own your own business in your hometown, and this is my adopted hometown. This is where I choose to live. I sold the agency, and I could have picked up and moved anywhere, but I chose to stay here," he said. "I chose to stay here because I like the people in this area, I like the town and I like doing business with people here."

Black Dog Pizza will serve an assortment of made-from-scratch pizza and fountain drinks, but it'll also have hot and cold sandwiches to attract the lunch crowd. Mr. Harper said he wanted to create a friendly, family atmosphere in his restaurant, which will also accept take-out and delivery orders.

"I'm not trying to be a sit-down restaurant. Everything will be served together, but if you want to come in and get a sandwich and a bag of potato chips and a soft drink and sit here and eat, you can do it," he said.

But Mr. Harper hasn't cut ties with his former job altogether. He's still one of the primary plaintiffs in what could potentially become the largest age discrimination lawsuit in US history. The suit, which was filed against Allstate, is still being fought in court, and Mr. Harper said he and his fellow plaintiffs are still waiting to find out if the suit will receive class action certification.


Mr. Harper practices making a pizza in his new restaurant.
Elwood Hamilton
But for now, Mr. Harper's brain is all pizza, all the time. He's spent the last month cleaning his new restaurant, which once housed Domino's Pizza until it closed late last year. He's been busy choosing ingredients for his pizzas and sandwiches and looking for ways to decorate his restaurant with black dog memorabilia. The name stems from Mr. Harper's attachment with his black retriever, Cody.

"Some people may think it has something to do with the Georgia bulldogs or the Thomson bulldogs, which is fine, but I actually didn't think about that until afterwards," he said.

When Black Dog Pizza opens for business sometime in the near future, Mr. Harper and his wife Terrie, with the help of some part-time workers, will be the ones preparing and serving food. And that's just fine with him.

"I want it to be a fun place with good pizza. ... I'm going to be the black dog; I'll be doing it all," he said.

Web posted on Thursday, January 22, 2004

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