Year after year, without fuss or advertising, John and Kathy Weatherston of John’s Pizza Café in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul open their doors on Christmas Eve—and give it all away. They donate their Dec. 24 proceeds, including the sales tax, to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare.
John Weatherston refuses to make his employees work on Christmas Eve, but they come in anyway—a volunteer army led by his long-term employee and head pizza cook LeAnn Mitchell. “If they want to volunteer to come in and work and get paid, they can,” he says. “Everyone knows what we’re doing here.”
What they’re doing is making a difference. This past Christmas Eve, John’s raised $2,200 for Gillette. “As a parent, I’m drawn to helping kids,” says Mitchell. “You want to do anything that will help children, and we know that Gillette does that.”
Weatherston agrees. “Gillette is a good place,” he says. “It’s a great organization that does what it says it will do to help kids.”
John’s Pizza Café doesn’t take delivery orders on Dec. 24, another concession to the holiday. The money comes from its walk-in business, the neighborhood people who’ve been the bread and butter of John’s since it opened in 1987.
If neighborliness is in the genetic code of this place, so is simple, honest food. “We use ground chuck beef brisket for our hamburger meat and make our own homemade buns,” says Weatherston. “And we don’t pile the burger high so that it looks like the Eiffel Tower, you know? We have good food. We’re not foo-foo, we’re not exclusive.”
Get to talking with Weatherston, and he might tell you about his military service as a member of the Seabees, the construction battalion of the U.S. Navy. How he repaired a boiler for a man during his first week in Vietnam and received boxes of steak and potatoes as a thank you—enough food to keep him and the other Seabees well fed during his tour of duty.
In one way or another, Weatherston has always been in the business of feeding people—and of giving generously to others.
Feeling inspired by Weatherston’s story? Give a gift to Gillette today.