Family serves up award-winning business

Old Town Pizza owners also focuses on community
By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
For the past decade Old Town Pizza has been serving up tasty favorites and friendly service. Now the eatery and its owners, Reese and Tammy Browning, are being honored as Business of the Year. It’s all about family, Reese Browning said this week. His parents, Ed and Pat Browning, are co-owners of the restaurant. Son-in-law Ethan O’Hagen is the general manager. His son, Mason Browning, runs an offshoot of the company — Old Town Pizza in Lincoln. His brother Charles works in the kitchen and son-in-law Russ Yeager is marketing director. “I like working with my parents and my children and evaluating how we’re doing and making decisions as a family on what we can do to make it better,” Reese Browning said. The Brownings moved into the restaurant business after a career with Hewlett-Packard. In 1983 they were transferred to the Hewlett-Packard campus in Roseville. But Reese’s association with the area goes back to childhood. “As a kid I knew about Auburn,” he said. “We’d always stop in Auburn on the way to Tahoe or Reno on family vacations. I really don’t remember this, but my parents say I told them that some day I’d live in Auburn.” The Brownings purchased Old Town Pizza in 2002, keeping the menu essentially the same. In fact, Browning attributes part of the restaurant’s success to those original recipes. “Brian and Maureen (Hays) created a good product,” he said. “They put care into creating the right pizza.” Inheriting an excellent location was a bonus, too. Then, the Brownings put their own stamp on the business through ambiance, customer service and community involvement. Reese Browning is past president of the Old Town Business Association. He’s on the board of directors of the Old Town Auburn Preservation Society and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce. And he’s part of this year’s Leadership Auburn class. It was the focus on community that put Old Town Pizza at the top of the list for Business of the Year. “(Besides involvement in the chamber and Old Town organizations), there’s a whole host of community-based groups that have benefited from fundraisers and discount programs (offered by the restaurant),” Chamber CEO Bruce Cosgrove said. “All of those just demonstrate to us that this is a business that thinks about community and supports the community. There’s a very strong family commitment to the business that extends to their employees. The family’s values drive the business.” When he found out Old Town Pizza had won the award, Browning was “surprised but very proud and honored.” “My parents are just in heaven,” he said. “They worked for Hewlett-Packard their whole life. Owning our own business is new to the family, so they’re just thrilled.” But it’s not all work and no play for the Brownings. In their leisure time, Reese and Tammy like to jump into their motor home and hit the open road. “A few years ago, we had a fire in Old Town and businesses were impacted,” Browning said. “We took a 64-day road trip around the United States in our motor home. We hit 46 states.” “The Carlsbad Caverns were pretty cool,” he said about some of the sights they visited. They’re also hooked on history and the paranormal. “We get a little silly when it comes to ghost stories,” he said. “We tried to hit as many ghost towns as we could. So we’ve had a good time with that. That’s one reason we like Auburn so much. We love the history and the whole thing about it." But what they enjoy even more is being with their three young grandchildren. “We try to spend as much time with them as we can,” Browning said. “If we can avoid mowing the lawn to spend time with grandkids, we do that.” These days, the Brownings have three businesses on their plate. Last year, they opened Old Town Dessert Café. That project started with a building sitting empty across the street from Old Town Pizza. “Having that beautiful, huge building sitting there vacant for as long as it was, was hurting (the district),” Browning said. “Over the years customers said they wished Old Town had an ice cream shop or candy shop and were surprised it didn’t.” After purchasing the property in 2008 and then renovating it, the Brownings opened the sweets shop in February 2009. Tammy Browning handles baking duties. Their latest project is renovating Old Town Pizza. “We remodeled the lobby and area behind it,” Browning said. “That’s the area getting new floors. It’s got two new TVs. We took out the old-style booths and put in pub tables. So it has kind of a cantina atmosphere. It’s a place where people can come into a relaxed environment and have a slice of pizza and a beer. It’s a little more quick service.” The Business of the Year award will be presented at the State of the Community Dinner on May 7. The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at ---------- What: State of the Community Dinner When: 6 p.m. Friday, May 7 Where: Sierra Building, Gold Country Fairgrounds, 1273 High St., Auburn Cost: $37.50 per person Reservations: Call (530) 885-5616 by May 3 -----------