The Brick Oven

Bob Watts (left), owner of The Brick Oven, wears a chef’s cap that he made to honor Rock Spring Elementary principal Kandi Gilstrap (right) as she continues to battle cancer.

Many organizations utilize social media as a marketing tool or to boost sales. But one local business has embraced the power of being positive in its daily posts and interactions with customers and the community as well.

Customers of The Brick Oven restaurant in Rock Spring quickly notice that Bob Watts is a genuinely charismatic and caring person.

“We exist because you allow us to. Thank you for that,” Watts wrote in one of many statements of customer appreciation.

Like many small businesses, Watts informs customers of new pizza creations that he has concocted or about the assortment of homemade ice cream available. However, it is the outward optimism and appreciative manner that people notice when dining at the establishment.

“I’ve kind of thrown conventional wisdom out the window and tried to create more of an open relationship with customers,” Watts said. “Relationships with depth are what make life worth living. I want our customers to have a place to feel comfortable, and know that they’re in an environment where they are appreciated and they are cared about.”

He even encouraged customers to ponder the inevitable during a recent thought provoking “Before I die” theme.

“This life is not a permanent thing. There is a 100 percent chance that I am not going to get out of this alive,” Watts reflected. “Now is the time when I can do something for that Bob who can do no more than look in the rear-view mirror of his memory. In that day, what will be important? What will I be most proud of? Whose life did I touch? Who did I influence? Who did I inspire?”

Watts enjoys taking care of people and is determined to be successful, so much so that he worked more than 355 days during the first year running the pizza shop.

Georgia Northwestern Technical College invited Watts to speak with business students on three occasions in 2013.

He is guided by the Lutheran faith. He is focused on a new business concept called “conscious capitalism,” which values people, versus profits.

“If we are so completely focused on the bottom line, then we are never ultimately going to care about our customers, or those people that work within companies. We would be valuing money more than the individual. It is that philosophy that squarely led us into the crash of 2008.”

Months ago, when food industry workers sought to raise the minimum wage, Watts proudly posted that he valued the hard work of his employees and that he paid all at least $10 per hour.

“I have to follow my heart and my conscience,” Watts said. “This should not be a legal issue, because it is a moral issue. If am in a company where the profit margins are so slim that I can’t afford or justify to pay someone a wage that is respectable, then I need to find something else to do. I know that my industry as a whole frowns on anything that remotely looks like an increase in wages, because wages are my number one expense.”

He has instilled his personal philosophy of life into the business, training employees to share his work ethic and values.

“I am after that which is in my heart, and doing that every single day to the best of my ability,” Watts said. “That’s what I want to inspire in those around me. I can’t tell them what they’re going to believe, but I can tell them how we are going to treat our customers.”

The comfy atmosphere of the restaurant does not espouse a hint of his Christian faith, viewing that as inappropriately using faith for personal gain.

“I’m not trying to push my philosophy on to anyone, but for me, if I were to do that, it would mean that I was using that as a sales tool,” Watts said.

Instead, his values are conspicuously shared through his continued efforts in the community.

Each week the staff at The Brick Oven recognizes a variety of hard-working folks, including military personnel, first responders and teachers.

During the school year, Watts designates a fundraiser day for a different school each week, giving a free personal pizza to teachers and donating 10 percent proceeds back to that school, totaling $2,000 this past school year.

Watts delivered more than a dozen pizzas to the 2014 Walker-Catoosa Relay for Life and even had a specially made chef’s cap (in pink) that he gave to Rock Spring Elementary principal Kandi Gilstrap as she battled cancer.

“If we all work together, each doing a little bit, then we can accomplish a great deal,” he said.