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Shelby woman’s birthday party becomes surprise Papa John’s commercial

By Scotty McDaniel

Cheese or pepperoni pizza, with garlic breadsticks. If you order it, they will come.

And you may find yourself in a television commercial with "Papa John" Schnatter himself.

Josh Miner of Louisville was more than familiar with the “Better ingredients. Better pizza” of Papa John’s. When he lived by himself as a bachelor, he ordered it online probably once a week, he said.

“So honestly, in a year at least 52 pizzas,” he said. “Now that I got married, I don’t eat it as much.”

But he didn’t know the pizza juggernaut was tracking the frequency of Internet orders for its “Papa’s in the house” campaign.

Then out of the blue some folks from Papa John’s called Miner and asked if he was interested in being a part of a marketing video that would be used in-house to show the company its typical customers.

“The lady who talked to me said it’d be very low-key with a couple people from Papa John’s coming,” he said.

She also asked if there was a good family setting where they could film. When Miner and his wife, Christy, considered that Christy’s mother, Rachael Page of Finchville, was about to celebrate a birthday, they decided that would be the perfect location for the filming.

They told Papa John’s to come to the early birthday party in July at Josh and Christy’s home in Louisville.

Page says she remembers the family packing inside along with several of her son Casey’s friends from Shelby County.

“They [Papa John’s] wanted a real family gathering. We still do where everyone comes for our birthdays, so that was the premise -- that it was my birthday,” she said.

But they didn’t know the party was about to get a lot more crowded.

“We thought it was just for a marketing video. None of us knew. Then all of the sudden -- it was unbelievable,” she said. “You would not believe how many people come for a filming.”

The filming company arrived in three massive motorcoaches with all their equipment. Police blocked off the street.

Cameras were everywhere. Crews brought in their own lighting and rearranged the home’s furniture for better filming conditions. They even placed Cokes in strategic places.

Page estimates that around 30 people were involved in the chaos.

“It just basically looked like a movie set,” Miner said.

And every good movie has its star.

Page recalls one of her nephews gazing out the window wide-eyed and saying, “Oh my gosh, there’s a cool car pulling up.”

“We had been told the delivery people were going to deliver us pizza,” she said. “We thought it was going to be a regular delivery with a Cinnapie for me for my birthday.”

Instead, she said a yellow-and-black Camaro pulled into the driveway, and to everyone’s surprise Papa John’s founder John Schnatter got out of the car.

“We were crazy!” Page says. “We were screaming and dancing. It was him.”

They weren’t shooting a measly marketing video. It was a full-blown commercial.

Page said Schnatter entered the house holding her birthday Cinnapie and asked, “Where’s the birthday girl?”

With the furniture rearranged, she came out to greet him and hit her leg on a coffee table that had changed locations.

The pain didn’t dull any of the excitement.

“They told us we were the most energetic people they’ve ever filmed,” she said. “It was such a great experience, and he [Schnatter] was so nice.”

Page’s 5-year-old nephew had lost a tooth while waiting, and upon learning this Schnatter handed the boy a $10 bill for his tooth-fairy fund.

Miner got a special treat of his own. While talking with Schnatter about Camaros, Papa John asked him if he wanted to drive his.

“I said, ‘Well, actually, yeah I do,’” Miner said. “I got in the car, and Caytie, Stacey and Christy all got in.

“The best part was being able to peel out in front of a cop car. I got permission from the police and Papa John himself. That was quite entertaining.”

Schnatter yelled out, “Make sure to bring it back in one piece” as Miner squealed the tires and took off.

And if the excitement overwhelms Miner's memory of the event, he can always just turn on the tube.

The commercial started airing Monday. Miner said there are 20-second and 30-second versions, both of them showing Papa John coming up to the house, coming in the door and everyone going crazy.

“Then in the long commercial, you see my mother-in-law, Rachael Page, in a close-up screaming, ‘Papas in the house!’” he said.

The commercial ends with the infamous Camaro peel out, with none other than Miner as the guest driver.

“I was kind of shocked that they put that in the commercial,” he said.

At some point in time a newer Papa John’s commercial will no doubt take its airtime, but for Page, Miner and the family and friends who were there, this particular birthday celebration won’t ever be forgotten.

“It was amazing. It was just unbelievable the people they brought to put this on,” Page said, followed by a heavy sigh. “And they were so nice.”