Clay Harris gives back through pizza
Clay Harris, manager at Fairfield’s Pizza Hut since 1976, is a good example of reaping what is sown.
“When serving the public, you have to be easy,” said Harris. “You have to show respect to others.”
Harris is known for his upbeat attitude.
Long-time customer Angie Lamb wants to publicly recognize Harris for his 38 years and for who he is.
“My husband [Steve Lamb] and I have lived in Fairfield all our lives and we’re business owners,” she said. “We want to recognize Clay’s loyalty. Not many people stay in a job so long. He’s a great manager and has stayed true to his values through the years.
“Clay is courteous, kind and funny.”
Lamb shared a personal anecdote to demonstrate his thoughtfulness.
“Back in high school, in the ‘80s, in my senior year, we lost a huge sub-state girls basketball game,” she said. “We were really down about it.
“When we got back to town, we ordered lots of pizzas. When I went to pick it up, Clay said the pizzas were on him. He said he knew the team had tried hard and played well.
“That gesture of kindness and compassion is something I remember vividly many years later,” said Lamb.
Lamb is bringing a birthday cake for Harris to Pizza Hut on his birthday Monday.
“He’s a big ‘Star Trek’ fan, so of course, his cake has to have ‘Live long and prosper’ on it,” she said. “He’s also known for saying ‘Have a bodacious day.’”
Harris, originally from Hannibal, Missouri, worked at a Pizza Hut in his hometown when he was offered the job as manager in Fairfield and came here in April 1976.
“I was very naïve back then,” he said. “I was told the job was in Fairfield, and I drove for hours and stopped at a Pizza Hut and knocked on the back door. It was the Mt. Pleasant store. I was told to keep driving west.”
He said he’s stayed working at Pizza Hut because he’s enjoyed it.
“I’ve never had to come to work,” he said. “Working for Tennyson Enterprises has been great. It’s a wonderful corporation. I knew Ivan Tennyson; he was a great man.
“I appreciate that I’ve been able to provide for my family over the years through this job and this community,” said Harris.
He has seen many changes in Pizza Hut, from offering only two choices of crust — thin and crispy, and thick and chewy — to adding pan pizza, stuffed crust and hand tossed. Personal size pizzas, delivery service and chicken wings have been added over the years.
But it’s the people that keep Harris returning — both the customers and the employees.
“The young people in Fairfield who have come here to work throughout the years have generally been very caring and worked their hearts out,” said Harris. “Even the ‘bad apples.’ I’ve had some that I’ve had to fire come back years later to say hi and tell me how they’re doing. Some people are just not cut out for this type of work. And I talk about that with them.”
Harris said Fairfield Pizza Hut has gone from 13 or 14 employees when he began here to 30 employees now.
He enjoys Pizza Hut being a place for celebrations.
“Young kids who play ball will come here with the team and families to celebrate; we have young couples on dates and reunions taking place,” he said.
“We also cater off premises. We work with the school to provide pizza for after-prom and the sports concession stand will order pizzas to serve at games,” he said.
He acknowledges that Fairfield has a diversity of eating preferences.
“We can adapt to anyone’s eating specifications, whether that’s someone who doesn’t eat pork, or no meat at all, we are very careful to observe what a customer requests for any diet or religious beliefs,” said Harris. “We get along with everybody. I want our customers to be satisfied with our food and service.”