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Papa’s back: Youngest owner in franchise brings back pizza store

When Andrell Harris returned to Mississippi in 2013 after a tour in Iraq, he started looking for investment opportunities. His search led to Natchez, where he purchased the then-vacant Papa John’s. He has now reopened the restaurant and will have a grand opening and ribbon cutting for his new pizza business on Monday. (Sam Gause/The Natchez Democrat)

When Andrell Harris returned to Mississippi in 2013 after a tour in Iraq, he started looking for investment opportunities. His search led to Natchez, where he purchased the then-vacant Papa John’s. He has now reopened the restaurant and will have a grand opening and ribbon cutting for his new pizza business on Monday. (Sam Gause/The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Andrell Harris rarely sits down.

Between tossing pizza dough, greeting customers and sprinkling pies with fresh mozzarella — not to mention managing 23 employees — the new owner of Natchez’s Papa John’s stays busy.

Being presented with a challenge, though, is nothing new for Harris.

“Before this, I was in the Army Reserve,” said Harris, who at age 29 is the youngest storeowner in the Papa John’s franchise. “The military has given me a solid head start in life, and it’s given me skills that I employ daily in running a business.”

A Mississippi native, Harris always knew he wanted to work in, and give back to, his home state.

After graduating from Jackson State University in 2008 with a finance degree, Harris was commissioned as a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. Then, in January 2010, he was deployed to Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

However, in July 2013, Harris returned to his home in Terry and began looking at his investments, which later led him to purchase the then-vacant Natchez Papa John’s last November and try his hand at the pizza business.

“The first few days have been really busy,” admitted Harris, adding the restaurant officially opened March 12.

“There have been a lot of people coming in and out.”

With several updates made to the restaurant’s interior — and a brand new roadside sign, which is three times larger than the previous sign — Harris said the Natchez Papa John’s has already come a long way.

“I expect a very high level of customer service here, too,” Harris said. “Everyone who comes into Papa John’s, they’ll be greeted right at the door and served the best pizza.”

Within the next few months, Harris said he plans to expand the restaurant delivery radius. The Natchez Papa John’s, located in south Natchez on U.S. 61, currently delivers as far as the Beau Pre subdivision.

“I’m looking to expand that (delivery coverage), but everything has to be approved by corporate,” Harris said.

As for now, though, the young entrepreneur has his hands full. However, he said he’s looking forward to officially debuting the restaurant to the community Monday for the grand opening.

“I definitely want to thank Natchez for embracing us and coming to Papa John’s for the best pie in town, because that’s what we have,” Harris said.

The Natchez Papa John’s is currently open Monday through Thursday from 10:45 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Doors open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until midnight.