Most Fridays, real estate agent Brent Hill isn’t selling houses, but pizza.
He began working at Giovanni’s Pizza in Linglestown about 12 years ago, making deliveries to earn an income while he worked on his real estate license.
A few years later, Hill sold his first house as a licensed agent. But, surprisingly, he didn’t quit his job at Giovanni’s. Over the years, he had developed a close friendship with shop owner Jesus Alejandrez.
“I don’t think you could get a better boss,” Hill said. “He’s so nice. He would give the shirt off his back for you. For somebody that literally came from nothing, he has no problem giving away what he gets.”
Thirty-three years ago, Alejandrez came from Mexico to the United States. He was only 13 years old when he hopped on a border-bound bus with some cousins and friends, only a small wad of cash to his name.
“That’s how I start my—I call it an adventure because really I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Three weeks after arriving in California, Alejandrez made it to Mount Joy where he stayed with a brother who was already living there. The same night he arrived, he started washing dishes at the Keystone Restaurant—what is now Gus’s Keystone Restaurant on W. Main Street. He worked there for about four years before moving to Lititz to work at another restaurant.
Alejandrez would go home to Mexico to visit family every now and then, and, on one occasion, met his wife Gabriella, whom he brought back to the United States.
Eventually, Alejandrez was sold a pizza shop business in Uptown Harrisburg. He finally owned his own restaurant, but didn’t realize just how hard it would be.
“When someone sells you a food business—it’s because it’s not doing good,” he said. “Because, if it’s doing good, they’re going to ask you for a lot of money. But I didn’t have no experience at all, so I bought it.”
He maxed out his credit cards just to pay utilities and rent.
“I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning because I didn’t know how to manage money,” he said.
At about that time, Alejandrez found the first quarter-sized bald spot on his head. The doctor told him it from was high amounts of stress—the reason patches of his hair were disappearing. Finances had been tough, but losing his hair? He needed a release, so he started playing soccer to relieve some tension after work.
“That hour that we played, that was the time that I could at least forget a little all those problems, all those phone calls from the collection companies, all that stuff,” he said.
These days, things are different. Alejandrez now gives business and financial advice to other people—friends and family just beginning their business journeys as he was years ago.
“He’s looked at from everybody as the boss,” Hill said. “Every friend and family member goes to him for advice.”
Alejandrez realizes his business is still small. He sees other business owners that have more money and bigger restaurants, but he’s happy. He’s providing for his three boys and making a living. His hard work has made a difference.
“We have a house. It’s not paid off yet, but I have a bedroom for each of my kids,” he said. “When we were living in the mobile home, it was falling apart.”
Alejandrez recalled the days in the trailer park, cutting the end of his son’s wooden bed to make leg room as he got taller.
But as the kids grew and Giovanni’s grew, the family’s finances also grew. They were able to buy their first house from none other than Alejandrez’s good friend Hill—that first sale he had those nine years ago.
Close to Home
Alejandrez eventually sold his Uptown shop, and started his current business in Linglestown, which has been around for about 11 years now.
He works there for 13 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week. His son, Giovanni, works with him, as well. The restaurant has the typical foods you expect to find in a pizza shop, but with a few nods to his home country thrown in, such as tacos, quesadillas and burritos. Alejandrez also owns Giovanni’s Pizza and Bakery in Steelton.
Many customers are regulars who come back for the food and the service.
“He’s a very friendly guy,” said Taryn Miller, a weekly customer. “They make sure they give you the best service they can.”
Hill said that he talks with Alejandrez on a regular basis. He pointed out that, with all the current discussion around immigration, “this hits close to home.”
It’s been a long time since Alejandrez was drinking from park water fountains and buying 30-cent packs of crackers just to put something in his stomach. Now, he runs a restaurant packed full at lunch and helps others reach their goals like he did.
“Life taught me,” he said. “Now, in this town, this pizza shop is known.”
Giovanni’s Pizza is located at 1027 N. Mountain Rd., Linglestown. For more information, visit https://www.orderstart.com/giovannispizzalinglestown#.