Big Apple Pizza owner hugs President Obama during stop in Fort Pierce

By Jacey Birch, Reporter, Anchor, jbirch@Local10.com
Published On: Sep 10 2012 04:54:37 PM EDT
Updated On: Sep 11 2012 10:25:52 AM EDT

Local 10's Jacey Birch had a chance to interview the man whose photo is in newspapers all around the country after he gave the president a bear hug.

FORT PIERCE, Fla. -

A Fort Pierce pizza shop owner's picture is featured on most newspapers across the country.  Why?  Because he is a small business owner?  No.  Because he is a huge philanthropist in his community?  No.  It's because he bear-hugged the president and picked him up off the ground in the middle of his pizza shop.

Before rallying voters in West Palm Beach on Sunday, President Barack Obama came to visit Scott Van Duzer at his restaurant.  The President immediately noticed Scott's weight-lifting muscles.

"Everybody look at these guns.  If I eat your pizza, will I look like that?" asked President Barack Obama.

On Monday, Local 10's Jacey Birch got a chance to interview the instant celebrity.

The 6-foot, 3-inch, 260 pound pizza shop owner went in for a shake, then a hug, and then a full-on bear-hug, sweeping the Commander in Chief's feet off the ground.

PHOTO: Jacey gets a bear hug

"I'm a real passionate and my wife tells me I'm a too-much-in-your-face type of person," said Scott Van Duzer. "I put him down quickly and I wasn't going to run off with him."

Van Duzer says he may have scared the Secret Service with his outgoing personality.

His 21-year-old son, Jordan, is used to his dad's over-the-top energy.

"I think he was overwhelmed with excitement at the time, wasn't expecting it, and that was his first reaction, first instinct reaction was to give a bear hug," Jordan said.

For those of you wondering what the President orders in a pizza parlor, Scott has the answer.

"Eightenn pies. It was like $195 and I was waiting for maybe the black American Express card but he pulled out cash and I was like, 'great.'"

But Van Duzer is more than hugs and more than pizza. He is also known for his philanthropy.

His charity has raised over $600,000 dollars for families in need.

"We hold a fundraiser at my pizza shop once a month to help families in any kind of crisis," explains Scott.

Jane Rowley has known Scott for sixteen years, as long as he has owned Big Apple Pizza and Pasta.  She comes in the shop and orders the same sub every single day and she thinks the president picked the right guy to visit.

"He's got a heart so big for the community," she said.

Which may be why the president singled out the weight-trainer, more for his generous heart, and not those big guns that lifted him clear off the ground.

"It was a moment I'll never forget," Van Duzer said.

And even though he is a registered Republican, Scott says President Barack Obama had his vote in 2008 and he's earned his vote again for this November.

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