Samantha Johnson, left, and Amy Langston have co-owned the local Johnny's Take and Bake Pizza for less than a year. They were recognized in May as a rising star business. 

Stepsisters Amy Langston and Samantha Johnson purchased Johnny’s Take & Bake Pizza in Tehachapi in 2017 after three family members died in a boating accident the year before.

The two have been focused on expanding their business and have been given a Rising Star of the Year Award by the Cal State Bakersfield’s Small Business Development Center, but feel there is much left to do and learn.

“We’ve really achieved little to nothing we feel yet, because we’re just getting started,” Johnson said.

The accident in October 2016 took Johnson’s husband, Langston’s little brother and their dad. The two sisters had worked at the pizza shop, and when the owner announced he was selling, they decided to take the opportunity.

Both had been in previous jobs as “always a worker,” but have now transitioned into learning how to manage a business. Langston said there were late nights when the kitchen had wound up a mess and the two would “sit and stare at each other,” wondering what had happened.

Since they took over and made some changes, Johnny’s Take and Bake now features self-serve kombucha on tap and vegan options. The menu also includes sandwiches, salads and desserts.

Johnson said the next step is to “step back and be able to expand” by training two employees to become managers so they can explore things such as online ordering and marketing their business. Over time, they hope to open more locations and offer more health food options.

Although they are busy growing their business, the sisters have prioritized giving back.

“So many people have rough lives, and they kind of let that rule them, and we kind of want to teach them a different way of looking at those situations,” Johnson said.

Because they received so much support following the accident, Johnson said, they started a fund called “All for Them” that helps people in similar situations.

Langston and Johnson also said they have started doing youth mentorship through the Salvation Army. Recently, they shared their story with sixth-graders, and discovered how intimidating kids can be.

“Next time, we’re coming back strong,” Langston said.

The sisters were not always close, said Langston, who mostly grew up in California City with her mom. When she came to live in Tehachapi in 2012 with her dad, she and Johnson grew closer.

“I did not like Sam...It allowed us to bond, and we actually became a really close family,” Langston said.

Liz Wolfe said she and her husband are frequent customers of Johnny’s. She said the owners would likely not recognize her, but that she likes what they’ve done with the business and was struck by their story.

“Every time we go, they’re there,” Wolfe said.

To get a take and bake pizza or try their other food, visit Johnny’s at 807 Tucker Road, Suite C, or call 661-822-9596.