Another hat for Bragdon

The former state Senate president now turns to pizza

MILFORD – Peter Bragdon has worn many hats: software entre­preneur, school board member, state Senate president, corporate ex­ecutive, newspaper pub­lisher.

Now he has a new one. Actually, it isn’t a hat, but a big red apron to keep sauce off his clothes.

Bragdon is the new owner of Foodee’s Pizza on the Milford Oval, tak­ing over from John Bow­man, who had owned and operated the restaurant for nearly a quarter cen­tury.

After leaving his job as executive director of HealthTrust last year, Bragdon said he spent time looking for a new career. Earlier this year, he visited the restaurant and got to talking with Bowman, who said he’d like to sell the business. Bragdon decided he’d like to buy it.

"It’s kind of an institu­tion on the Oval," said Bragdon, who said the pizza is special.

The crust is hand-made and made only with King Arthur Flour, meaning no preservatives, and there are whole-wheat, organic six-grain and gluten-free options, he said. More than two dozen varieties of pizza include Mexican, Greek, Mediterranean and French Onion, along with a white pizza made with their own garlic butter, and American barbecue and bacon-cheeseburger.

"The dough doesn’t come in on a trailer truck in a huge ball and sit in a freezer for a week," Brag­don said. "Every day, we make the dough."

The Milford Foodee’s is the last of what was once a regional chain started in Hillsboro. According to a YouTube video on the Foodee’s website, the chain was founded by a group of pilots who want­ed to create the kind of food they discovered all over the world; hence the slogan, "A World of Pizza."

Foodee’s offers some unusual specials: For families who order a 16-inch or deep dish "Food of the World" pie and have finicky kids, Foodee’s provides a free child-size cheese pizza. There is also a take-and-bake option.

There are 13 pizza par­lors in Milford, by Bow­man’s count, so there is a lot of competition. Bow­man is helping out in the shop so Bragdon can con­centrate on marketing and learning how to use the internet, especially social media, to promote his store.

One of Foodee’s custom­ers is a big one: a NAS­CAR pit crew has a stand­ing order for 100 pies waiting for them in their plane at the Manchester airport after they leave the New Hampshire Mo­tor Speedway in Loudon.

Bragdon grew up in Am­herst, the fourth genera­tion of the Bragdon farm­ing family. He graduated from Milford High School and University of Massa­chusetts Lowell, and then developed and sold a soft­ware company. Turning to public service, he served on the Milford School Board for many years; was the longest-serving Mil­ford School Board mem­ber in its history and its chairman for many years.

Bragdon was elected to the House of Representa­tives, then the state Sen­ate, where he served for 10 years and where he was elected Senate presi­dent. In 2011, he took a job as executive director of HealthTrust, an insur­ance pool for school dis­tricts and municipalities. For a while, he published a weekly newspaper, the Milford Observer.

Bragdon said talking to ordinary citizens who come into his restaurant, instead of to politicians, has given him a new per­spective on state govern­ment, making him realize that most people don’t know or care much about what’s going on in Con­cord. And it has also led to some funny encounters when past meets present.

Jim Rubens, a former Senate colleague who lost to Sen. Kelly Ayotte in the primary last month, came into Foodee’s one day and was taken aback to see Bragdon on the other side of the counter.

"You should have seen the look on his face," an amused Bragdon said.

Taking over a pizza place might seem an un­usual career move, but in some ways, it isn’t unlike what he has done before.

At heart, said Bragdon, who is 53, "I am an entre­preneur" who likes to run an operation and make it better.

"And it’s usually some­thing I’ve never done be­fore," he said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.