BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Two Tehachapi stepsisters who suffered the loss of three family members in a boating accident are now pouring their hearts into a new business venture to help fulfill their deceased father's longtime dream.
Samantha Johnson and Amy Langston have the same dad but different moms. However after their father's boat went down during a fishing trip on June Lake in 2016, Johnson and Langston never saw their father or two of their other family members ever again.
"We were super lost after the accident, kind of what do you do with life after that," 23-year-old Samantha Johnson said.
Johnson and her 26-year-old step sister Amy Langston have both been grieving ever since the accident that took a big part of their family.
"My dad’s legs were tied by a fishing string and the boat just took him down instantly," Johnson said.
However, their dad was not the only family member lost in the accident, "My husband, my little brother and my dad all passed away," Johnson said.
According to Johnson her husband and her dad built the boat together but they forgot to pack life jackets with them. Johnson said that because of the water conditions her family was not supposed to be on the water that day.
Luckily some of their other family members did make it to shore, "I get the phone call that the boat went down you know Kaleb and John have been found." Amy Langston said.
Even though both sisters were relieved to hear that some of their family made it out alive after the recovery effort, their mothers both moved away and they were immediately faced with new life challenges. That’s when the Tehachapi community stepped up to pay for all three of their family members funerals, to help out the sisters who worked at the local Johnny's Take and Bake Pizza restaurant.
"Everybody from the community reached out and said if you ever need anything we're here, somebody to talk to,” Johnson said. “They helped out with food a lot yea so we didn't have to cook. It was really awesome and they gave us blankets, yea comfort blankets everything you could think of," Langston said.
The two were working part time at both Johnny's Take and Bake Pizza and at a cement plant before and after the accident. Until about a year later when a new opportunity was put in their path.
"I got a phone call, Amy do you want to buy Johnny’s,” Langston said. Johnson was ready to take the opportunity immediately, “I was like sold right away..we can do it, it's fine I know we're young but we can buy a business, we can make it work,” Johnson said.
They both knew how to be employees but taking on new roles as business owners was something foreign to both of them. They knew their father always wanted to be a business owner so they took a risk and purchased the pizza restaurant as part of a way to persevere through their time of grief.
"This is our baby it really gave us a place to put our energy, to build something from nothing," Johnson said.
Hoping to uphold over two decades worth of Tehachapi clientele, the stepsisters also started a charity called, "All for Them," to raise money to help others out during hard times brought upon by family loss.
"We were able to see the light after that support so with this charity we want to definitely be able to help financially you know for paying for funeral expenses," Langston said.
Along with pizzas that customers can customize to their liking, pick up and take home to bake their menu features salads and sandwiches. The two have added fermented teas like Kombucha on tap and cheese substitutes for those with dietary restrictions, adding some extra spice to the menu while also giving back to the community that stepped up to support them.
"Everybody loves Johnny's and what we got recognized for was small business of the year it was rising stars, and I think they just saw how involved or how involved we were trying to be with the community in how little time that we've owned the place," Langston said.
The stepsisters now fulfilling their father's dream, "We said since the beginning that this is like his dream always his dream and anytime like when we got our award or anytime we bring something new in we say how proud he'd be, he'd be taking pictures of us posting them everywhere. He'd be our biggest supporter and fan..he'd be really happy,” Johnson said. “I think about calling him I'm like you know Sam I just I wanted to call him and you know you realize that he’s not there," Langston said.
Building new family memories together, while sending a message of strength to their Tehachapi community.
"No matter how hard today is, no matter how much you think life is trying to take you down and it's attacking you if you just concentrate one day at a time and go piece by piece it kind of all works out, and just work hard," Johnson said.
Johnny's Take and Bake Pizza has been nominated for the best pizza in Tehachapi for the past three years in a row according to the Langston and Johnson. They both plan to expand the restaurant and maybe even open up a new all natural pizzeria in Los Angeles in the future.
If you would like more information on their charity supporting youth during times of family loss contact firstname.lastname@example.org