By Joe Montgomery
Landon Hobbs stands out by the busy Eastern Bypass, wearing a worn-out pair of gloves and holding a Little Caesar’s sign lined with tattered duct tape and reading “HOT-N-READY.” But it’s not the catchy slogan or the design on the board that is special; it’s what Hobbs is able to do using the sign.
Hobbs is a 19-year-old freshman at Eastern who plans to become a police officer. His hometown is Junction City, but he calls Todd Hall home during the school semester.
School can be a costly endeavor so, to help pay for the experience, Hobbs works at the Little Caesar’s in Richmond as a “Shakerboader,” the official title for the unique acrobatics he performs with the advertising signs.
Instead of being paid to flip pizzas into the air, he is on the payroll for flipping, tossing and twirling the sign like a baton, with a slight incorporation of break dancing. His abilities have made him an attraction of Richmond, and he always draws spectators as he works.
“I like the positive feedback,” Hobbs said.
He has worked at Little Caesar’s for six months, but has been an employee of different Little Caesar’s franchisees for two years. He said he has had his fair share of grunt work in the kitchen and behind the counter.
In the beginning, Hobbs would sometimes be asked to hold the sign outside, and to make things interesting, he would liven up the duty with a few tricks. Without any previous experience in a marching band or any other program, he gradually began to improve his skill through practice, he said.
But Hobbs was offered a raise by his employer if he could add originality to his performance, so he then began to add his own style to the tricks.
His goal was to match the champion Shakerboader who won the national competition held in Las Vegas. After he had accumulated a slew of new tricks and stylish moves, Hobbs got to meet the champion Shakerboader. And, to his surprise, he discovered that he had overestimated the skill of the champion.
The winner of the competition merely threw the sign in the air with a few spins, and Hobbs said he realized he added so much to his performance in anticipation of the champion’s skill he actually surpassed him, creating a show that no one else had ever done.
Now, Hobbs uses his skills to earn a little money and entertain the bypass. His performance has inspired previous Little Caesars to hire more Shakerboaders, such as one that he worked at in Harrodsburg, which was encouraged by his talent to hire two more Shakerboaders after previously never having sign dancers.
However, Hobbs said it wasn’t easy to replicate, “They had to hire two Shakerboaders just to make up for the business that I brought in alone,” said Hobbs.
Occasionally he will generate crowds of spectators as he works, and admirers of his performance will stop him and compliment his ability, sometimes with words but other times with cash tips.
Hobbs hopes to compete in the national Shakerboader competition and win the prize that is anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000. Last year, he sent a video of his routine to the competition, but failed to take home the prize. This year, however, may be different. “I think I have a pretty good shot this year,” Hobbs said.