Keeping Busy with Francisco Bobadilla
● By Melissa Mendonca
To the Max
By Melissa Mendonca
Photo by Heather Vine
For fans of thick-crust pizza, Firehouse Pizza in Red Bluff is a perennial favorite. “People love our crust,” says Francisco Bobadilla, owner of the six-year-old gathering place. “It’s a recipe we've had to work on and work on. We grew a good understanding of how bread works.”
Firehouse, beloved as well for its generous and fun combinations of toppings – sweet and spicy Tropic Thunder being a favorite – is also a community space people care about.
Housed in an old brick building on Main Street that was the longtime home of Papa Joe’s Pizza, the doors were shuttered until Bobadilla, his brother Thomas and friend Bryon relocated their Lucerne and Clear Lake-based restaurants to Tehama County, where they had all grown up. “We basically grew homesick,” the Corning native says.
“The building has history on it. People get to bring their kids and create memories they had when they were younger,” he adds. “The high school kids love it. They tell me there was pretty much no place to go except the bowling alley until we came.” The upstairs section of the building houses pool tables, video games and a jukebox.
For Bobadilla, creating the fun and safe space at Firehouse is only one of many ways he contributes to youth and community development. A popular assistant track and wrestling coach at Red Bluff High School, as well as a volunteer junior varsity football coach, Bobadilla is the kind of guy who trains right along with the students. “I’m able to tell the kids what to do and then participate with them. It makes it so much more meaningful. They’ll get competitive with me. They’ll challenge me and it makes them try harder.”
In 2016, at the urging of friend Nora Schwaller, Bobadilla began teaching guitar lessons in Tehama County’s Juvenile Justice Center as a volunteer three days a week. A local business offered to sell him new guitars at cost and he quietly built a popular elective within the institution. “Basically, I’m just trying to get them to love music, which really isn't that hard. But it’s more than just turning on the radio.”
Through music, he hopes the students will discover a new and healthy way to meet people, collaborate and teach each other. “It becomes more of a learning experience because now they’re becoming a teacher, as well.” He designs his lessons so youth who pick up concepts quickly can teach their peers. Good behavior within the institution increases, because youth want to earn the privilege of practicing outside of school with staff.
“I love just watching the kids grow,” says Bobadilla, noting that he’s very aware of the traumas many of them have experienced by such a young age. “It’s so pure,” he says of music. “It brings me great joy to see them have so much fun.”
Bobadilla credits his mother for the soft spot he has for youth and humanity in general. “My mom is a really loving, caring person, too,” he says. “Sometimes to a fault. Her personality sort of rubbed off on me.”
To maintain a schedule of entrepreneurship – he also recently opened the Downtown Ale House on Walnut Street in Red Bluff, which serves local beer and wine and features live music – volunteer work and coaching duties, Bobadilla makes sure to attend to his health through art, music and physical activity. “The only conflict I have is sometimes wanting to do one thing over the other. Sometimes I want to just stay home all day and paint, but I know how much my body likes to work out.”
While it might be exhausting to contemplate his schedule, “Playing music and even art has been a good release for me,” he says. “I use them to reflect and think. It’s my meditation. They’re all just forms of meditation. I try to utilize them to the max to get the full benefit from them.
“I love to create in general,” he adds, “no matter what the subject is: painting, music, sports. And I like being there letting the kids know that someone cares and believes in them.” He credits a host of friends and colleagues for supporting his multiple endeavors. “Without these people it would be hard to do what I do, and it just shows that everyone needs someone.
“The world is already a wonderful place,” he adds. “But it could be a real wonderful place.” Whether through pizza, coaching or sharing music, Bobadilla is doing his part to get us to really wonderful.
Firehouse Pizza • 734 Main St., Red Bluff • (530) 690-2477
Downtown Ale House • 343 Walnut St., Red Bluff • (530) 727-9288