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The Ultimate Slice

Former Sports Illustrated photographer kneads his way into a successfully unique pizza business and demonstrates the true essence of community.

Bob Rosato is considered one of the best sports photojournalists in the industry. He's not only credited for 85 Sports Illustrated covers and hundreds of thousands of images published worldwide, he continues to receive respect and recognition from photographers he has guided and mentored throughout his career. Although Bob has embarked upon a new venture, he still loves his sports.

Born and raised in Miami, Bob had many hobbies and interests and could have been anything he wanted to be. After college he chose to fulfill his desire to be a policeman, which he did for six years and loved every minute of it. As one of those litany of hobbies Bob had as a child, his mother was into photography - not heavily into it but she developed her own pictures and had a bunch of cameras laying around the house - all of which Bob played and experimented with. This was serendipitous for the unanticipated world-class sports photographer. Bob never imagined that returning to one of his favorite childhood hobbies would land him a 35-year sports media career.

In the summer of 1986, Bob left the police department to become a freelance photographer and joined the NFL as a major contributor to the National Football League. This opened the door for Bob to become a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated where he spent the better part of 20 years. During those years, Bob saw a growing need in the sports photo industry and responded by launching a company in 2003 called US Presswire, which was ultimately purchased in 2011 by the Gannett Company - USA Today. The acquisition resulted in Bob leaving Sports Illustrated and becoming the Chief Operating Officer of the newly branded Sports Images division of USA Today, which became the largest dedicated sports image service in the nation. Bob stayed with USA Today until June of last year when it was time to leave corporate America and immerse himself in the fresh, rich sauce of Your Pie.

With retirement in mind, Bob knew that franchising was the direction he wanted to take. After a five-year search examining everything from indoor go-cart racing to food concepts and everything in between, Bob settled on the Your Pie franchise for its outstanding product and community-focused franchise leadership. The first of two restaurants opened in September 2016 and music to his ears is when customers ask whether the restaurant is a franchise. That question is affirmation for Bob that a good job was done at decorating and crafting the restaurants to look and feel like a natural part of their local community.

Both the Peachtree City and LaGrange restaurants benefit from Your Pie's Mobile Oven. This part of the operation does more than make and bake pizza. Of course it generates revenue but what it also generates - something most can't begin to quantify - is community good will. Spend any amount of time with Bob and you will find him to be kind and willing to share his knowledge and gains. Similar to the days during his sports media career when he conducted workshops and groomed countless photographers under his tutelage, Bob will tell you today that "opening doors and opportunities for young people is centric to who I am."

The LaGrange restaurant was open for only three months when Hurricane Michael - the first Category 5 hurricane to strike since hurricane Andrew in 1992 - hit Mexico Beach and caused incredible devastation. Bob extended an invitation and the younger staff at Your Pie said yes to volunteer their time and travel with Bob to operate the Mobile Oven. They selflessly fed 500 pizza meals to folks at the Red Cross, first-responders and residents who had absolutely nothing. Bob was moved by how many young people raised their hands to serve knowing they would not get paid.

Bob believes that "if you invest in people personally in whatever time you've employed them, the idea that you would be able to retain them and help build their skills, becomes part of it all." The manager for both restaurants have been with Bob since their doors opened, as have a number of the younger employees. "It's unheard of to have a restaurant and have people work for you for four or five years." Employees and customers experience more than Your Pie's tasty fare. Bob's passion, vast knowledge and business acumen make up the crust that protects the business and contributes to positive and memorable good fun. "It's not about how much money you make. It's about providing value to folks far beyond whatever it is that they are paying for."

In an interview with the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, Bob responded to the question about his hero and shared that his wife is his real hero but also some of the young people who have worked for him all these years, are his heroes. He recognizes their passion, dedication and their love for what they're doing. "That doesn't mean they do everything right or that they do it the way I want them to but they're doing it when the world is pulling at them in ways that our generation never experienced. I find that to be extraordinary."

One can only guess what would make a great day at Your Pie and Bob's words are reflective of his true spirit: "You just don't know if a kind word, a kind smile even - something very simple - will change a person's day and we have the opportunity to open our doors every single day and find a way to do that - and when that happens and it becomes known - that's a great day at Your Pie."

One would think that after traveling the entire world - having covered a host of Olympics and 30 straight Super Bowls - that this pizza guy would be craving to get back in the fast-paced world of sports but instead he is satisfied with this current, equally amazing slice of pie.

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