Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pizza Chain Sets Up Injured Soldier, Buddy With Franchise

Miami Herald (
July 30, 2005

Pizza Chain Sets Up Injured Soldier, Buddy With Franchise

By Associated Press

PADUCAH, Ky. - When Little Caesars Pizza owner Michael Ilitch read about soldier Robbie Doughty's struggle after losing two legs in Iraq, it reminded him of an injury that curtailed his baseball career.

"I gave up my career after three years in the minors," Ilitch said. "I couldn't get a job when I got out. I had no training and no specific knowledge."

So Ilitch, whose company owns the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings, had a Little Caesars executive track down Doughty and offer him a chance to open a franchise in Paducah.

"This is the first time I've done this," Ilitch said. "It was an impulse type thing."

Ilitch learned about Doughty through a newspaper article in November, a few months after Doughty lost his legs.

"I was reading the article and I felt like I knew him after I read his quotes and how he addressed the situation he was in," Ilitch said. "He was my kind of guy. It stuck with me from the standpoint of what his life is going to be like."

On Friday, Ilitch flew to Paducah to visit Doughty, 30, of Calvert City, and his partner, Lloyd Allard, 45, of Clarksville, Tenn.

"I was shocked," said Doughty, who is now walking without help from a cane. "I was a few months from retiring (from the military) and trying to develop a plan for what I was going to do."

Doughty pegged Allard as his partner. Allard, who recently retired after 23 years in the Army, met Doughty at Fort Campbell.

"I've been training in Detroit," said Allard, who plans to move temporarily to Paducah. "I've worked at (Little Caesars) stores for 2 1/2 weeks making pizzas and dealing with customers. I really like it."

The men showed Ilitch possible sites for the store Friday. Neither party would reveal how much financial support Ilitch was providing to get the franchise started. "They've been very generous," Allard said. "They've bent over backwards to help us start this franchise."

Doughty said he and Allard would eventually like to open more stores in the area. "It's amazing (Ilitch) came down personally to help us out," Doughty said. "We're eternally grateful for that. It all fell right in like it was meant to be."

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