Just 9 days before The Pizza Dude/Holly Lanes of Fenton, Mich. was to go out of business — joining the ranks of establishments decimated by pandemic lockdown measures—Barstool Sports frontman Dave Portnoy swooped in for the save.
The outspoken sports figure, whose podcasts and popular digital media company had typically focused its discussions on sports and pop culture, went all-in to create a national fundraiser for the nation’s struggling restaurants.
And by chance, Brian Aubuchon, owner of The Pizza Dude and Holly Lanes bowling of Fenton, Mich. saw a national news broadcast announcing the creation of the Barstool Fund.
“Up to this point, my full-time job was applying for disaster-relief grants and other funding,” Aubuchon. “I applied for everything I could, trying to pick up $500 here or a $1,000 there. I’d used my credit cards to help my employees pay some of their bills. And then I finally said to myself, ‘Oh my God! We’re 9 days away from having to pull the ripcord.”
Having tried everything to keep his 10-year business afloat, Aubuchon sent an email to Dave Portnoy asking for help. In it, he explained the dire situation. After that, Aubuchon sent 28 more emails to the celebrity sportscaster.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Aubuchon tells us what happened.
BB: Tell me about your first contact with the Barstool Fund.
BA: After I emailed them 29 days in a row, they finally emailed back and said, ‘Hey, we got your email.’ So at least I knew they had my information.
BB: How did you hear about the Barstool Fund?
BA: I was watching TV one night and Dave Portnoy appeared on Fox News to talk about what was happening to the nation’s restaurants during the mandated restaurant closures. He gave out his personal email by mistake, and I wrote it down. Within 72 hours of that broadcast, the fund was established. That fund raised $42 million and helped over 400 businesses. Including mine.
BB: How did you find out the Barstool Fund was going to help you?
BA: I was aware Dave Portnoy was in town, but after a couple days, when I did not hear, I thought, well, this is it. It’s not going to happen. So, one night I’m driving home and I see that someone is FaceTiming me. And I thought, ‘Who the hell is FaceTiming me at 9:30 at night?!’ I pulled off the side of the road, looked at my phone, and couldn’t believe it. It was Dave Portnoy!
BB: How did the Barstool Fund keep The Pizza Dude and Holly Lanes bowling from going under?
BA: Every month, I’d send in my profit and loss statement and expenses for staff, and the Barstool Fund cut me a check every month. This went on for a while. Now we make a cheese pizza and call it The Portnoy, and it’s by far our biggest seller.
BB: Is business coming back?
BA: Yes! We’re coming out of most of it. The business appears to be back to 2019 numbers. There’s a lot of hope there. And we’re re-opened for bowling, and that feels pretty good too.
BB: After being pulled back from the brink, what was your favorite moment?
BA: One of the best days in all of this was when I emailed Barstool Fund and told them I didn’t need their help anymore. We’re safe. — The Pizza Dude uses Boxerbrand menu covers Classic Line in its table presentation. Thank you!