Ryan Cepeda, 16, Jonathan Beskow, 17, and Stan Miller demonstrate their pizza-throwing abilities at Bruno's Pizza & Pasta on Friday. Miller, Bruno's general manager, said he doesn't let what's happening in his life obscure his goals. - Jamie Lusch

Home Grown: Once burned, owner of Bruno's Pizza & Pasta stays focused when life's up in the air

Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.

What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We provide quality pizza and pasta to the public in a safe, wholesome family environment. We began in November 1987 in Rogue River and opened our Medford location on Dec. 16, 1989. In 1988, I opened one in Talent. Three years later, I opened one in Ashland, which failed. Later on, I gave the Rogue River store to my son, who sold it to one of my former employees from the Ashland store.

How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? Our family has owned property in the area since 1979, and we became residents in 1987.

What inspired you to go into this line of work? Prior to opening Bruno's, I worked in the juvenile corrections field and as a real estate investment specialist. I observed that when I invested in the direction where growth was taking place, I did well. I apply the same principle by investing into my teenage employees' lives and their first work experience.

What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? My decision to expand to Ashland was a huge mistake, as it resulted in legal wranglings that substantially reduced my ability to carry forward my idea and principles to many other communities.

How do you overcome setbacks? By not letting what is happening in my life obscure what I set out to do. An old joke says it like this: "When you are up to your backside in alligators, it is hard to remember that you came here to drain the swamp!"

Who are your competitors? I prefer to look at others not as competitors, but as folks who also make or provide food and services.

What are your goals? They have changed over the years. At first, it was to open as many as 30 locations in Southern Oregon. Today it is to continue to hold the line on price and quality, as this is the worst economy I've seen in my 65 years. And that's hard.

What training or education did you need? I have used every bit of my life experiences at one time or another to operate Bruno's. I learned a lot about owning and managing properties as a real estate investment specialist, but what I really learned about was people. My extensive experience and training in the area of human behavior, observation and group counseling have been the key to meeting my goals and to my success.

What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? 1. Do something you truly believe in and have a passion for. 2. Have two to three times more money than you think you are going to need. 3. Make sure you are still available to meet the needs of loved ones while you are following your dreams. 4. Make sure you understand your true limits and don't rely on unrealistic expectations. 5. Have clearly defined and traceable goals and adjust them as needed. 6. Avoid practicing self-deception. 7. Practice the principle of determining what, not who, is right.

To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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