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A labor of love – and pizza

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By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The company rule was Dan Hughes couldn’t date an employee. But dating a fellow manager? There was no rule at Figaro’s Pizza against that.

Dan and Nikki Hughes, owners of the Figaro’s Pizza at 5460 River Road N in Keizer plus one in Salem and another in McMinnville, were recently named 2013 Franchise Owners of the Year for Figaro’s. But their story starts earlier.

Dan started working at Figaro’s in May 1990. By the summer of 1995 he was a manager for Jim and Paula Newman, who owned several successful Figaro’s stores. Nikki, who had been working at the Figaro’s on Lancaster Drive in Salem, was promoted to a management position by Jim Newman. Dan was asked to train Nikki starting that August.

“We just hit it off,” Nikki said. “He asked me out by the end of September.”

Before asking Nikki out, however, Dan had to make sure it was permissible with the Newmans. “The inner company policy is you don’t date employees,” Dan said. “She was a fellow manager, so that was different. But I had to make sure I could do it.”

The two were engaged in May 1996 and married that November. “It was a good 15 months,” Dan said with a chuckle. “I had asked (the Newmans) if it was all okay. They were happy for us. They knew it was a good fit.”

The Hughes managed different stores until Nikki gave birth to the first of the couple’s three children in 1998. Nikki has focused on raising the children – now ages 14, 11 and 9 – since then. She serves on the board of the Helping Education with Love and Pizza (HELP) charity, which contributes a portion of every dollar generated at Figaro’s to local schools. Nikki also answers the customer care line for all Figaro’s stores nationally.

While the family was growing so was Dan’s desire to take on a bigger role at work. Overseeing two stores in Albany at the time, Dan bought a portion of those stores in early 2001. In 2004, he bought a bigger portion of two Salem Figaro’s locations.

In 2008 the Hughes purchased the Keizer and Lancaster Drive stores from the Newmans, adding the McMinnville store in 2011.

Dan was in charge of coming up with Figaro’s computerized point of sales system, which debuted at the Keizer location in 2002. “We used to do pencil and paper for all orders,” Dan said. “We got it out of testing here in Keizer.”

Dan was named to the Figaro’s National Advisory Board in 2010, becoming chair early last year. “I’ve really enjoyed that,” Dan said. “It allows me to help shape the direction of the franchise. It allows me to keep my thumb on the pulse of the company and to look out for the interests of other franchisees.”

With three stores he’s accountable for, Dan relies on staff at each store, including manager Ashley Melton at the Keizer location.  At the same time, he makes sure he’s readily available to any store. That’s where having a wife with firsthand knowledge comes in handy. “When I don’t make it home for dinner, she understands,” Dan said.

Nikki nodded and smiled. “Been there, done it,” she said. “Or when he gets the calls at night or while on vacation. It’s important to be just a phone call away.”

The Hughes children are aware of the family back story. “They think it’s a cool story,” Dan said. And it could happen again: their oldest child is already working part-time at the Lancaster location.

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