By Rod Lee
Lakis “Lucky” Theoharis, who has owned and operated Pepperoni Express in North Grafton for nearly a quarter of a century, remembers how he became a benefactor of the South Grafton PTO (SGPTO) and all learning-related initiatives in the community.
“It started with a fundraiser,” Mr. Theoharis said on the afternoon of March 12th in his restaurant, which is situated in a former Burger King at 92 Worcester St.
The first such request for his assistance came around 1996. It resonated with him as something he wanted to get behind.
“I have three kids myself and I was always involved with their lives and their education,” Mr. Theoharis, a cheerful, engaging and humble man, said.
Initially, his idea was to discount the price of pizzas he intended to provide the event organizers as a way to say that he believed in the cause they were promoting.
Instead, “I thought ʽlet me do something for the town.’ I woke up the next morning and said ʽI’m going to donate one hundred pizzas.’ That became a tradition.”
The South Grafton PTO, a coalition of parents and teachers that is dedicated to supporting both the South Grafton Elementary School and the Millbury Street Elementary School, is grateful for Mr. Theoharis’s huge heart, Amy Albertson, who is co-chair of the SGPTO, said.
Typical of happenings that the SGPTO sponsors is the 2019 “Grafton Staff Basketball Clinic,” which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 26th at the Grafton Middle School. Millbury Street Elementary staff, sixth-grade students and community members are coming together for an evening that will include the game, a fun halftime dance party and a 50/50 raffle.
“Lucky is so generous, he never says no,” Ms. Albertson said. “He has contributed tons to our events over the years and he does so happily. I can’t say enough good [things] about him, he’s a valuable member of our community and from what I’ve heard we are not the only charity he supports in town. I think basically he supports all local nonprofits that ask him for help.”
As evidence of this, Mr. Theoharis was honored by the town as its “Small Business of the Year” in 2005. This salute was accompanied by a commendation from the State Legislature. He has also received a “Partner in Education” award from Grafton High School.
His efforts are ongoing. Just last week, Pepperoni Express hosted an “Operation Friendship” fundraiser for exchange students.
Every year, Pepperoni Express also allocates a $1000 scholarship, which is split between the high school’s top two students. Mr. Theoharis has been doing this since 2002.
Pepperoni Express lends financial support to the Grafton Senior Center as well.
“But I’ve focused mainly on the youth,” he said. “They are the future of the country and they are invested in the town of Grafton.
“It’s in my DNA to help, especially the kids,” he said. “I always get feedback and [recipients of his largess] appreciate it. I look at it as a partnership, small business and community—and I tell that to the kids who work here.”
Mr. Theoharis is cutting back in some ways, a concession, he says, to the fact that he’s older. He recently sold his second Pepperoni Express, on Rt. 9 in Shrewsbury.
The North Grafton store, meanwhile, marches on with pizzas, calzones, Italian pastas, classic grinders and sandwiches, gourmet salads, fried appetizers, Friday fish and chips, a children’s menu and—newly introduced—dine-in breakfast.
When it comes to supporting the community, however, there is no slowing down. It is full speed ahead.