Loyal customers. Hardworking staff members. Sheer luck.
That's how Francesca Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta owner Sal Reina says his pizzeria was able to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, and then open a third Bergen County location.
With stores in Glen Rock and Elmwood Park, the new Fair Lawn location on Broadway was set to open in March -- just one week before COVID-19 swept the state. As neighboring businesses fell one-by-one, Reina couldn't help but wonder if it would happen to his, too.
"Once I heard schools were closing," said Reina, "I knew something drastic was going to happen."
School lunch programs and local functions made up a large portion of sales for both of Reina's stores. The Elmwood Park store, for example, landed an account providing 110 pies every Wednesday for local students,Reina said. When schools closed, that was gone.
"I didn’t know if restaurants or eateries were also going to be forced to close," he said. "Even after I found out we were allowed to stay open being a pizza shop I was still super nervous about my team."
Reina -- who runs the stores alongside his three business partners Jeff Lucca, Adam Vuksanic and his brother, Gino Reina -- said he felt responsible for everyone involved.
"I feel like it’s my job to do a good job always out of respect for my team," he said. "I always feel that weight."
There were so many questions without answers. Would Reina have to lay anyone off? Downsize? Or worse, close the stores?
Those two days he spent worrying were the longest of his life, Reina said. He knew his business could shutter -- he saw it happen to dozens of businesses on his block. He watched helplessly as his friends were stripped of their livelihoods.
Thankfully, his customer base and community were "amazingly supportive," Reina said. Without them, things right now could be different.
"I was very nervous every morning about how the day was going to go from a sales standpoint," Reina said. "But after that first week, I saw things were pretty steady for the most part and felt a little bit of relief as the days and weeks went on."
Last Wednesday, Reina opened Francesca's third location on Broadway, in Fair Lawn. Sure, it happened later than expected, but Reina knows he's lucky.
"In the bigger picture, the virus affected so many more important and bigger things than the pizzeria," he said. "Lives were lost, people got ill and businesses -- and so much more -- suffered. So I’m not complaining."
ORDER FROM FRANCESCA:
- Fair Lawn, 25-07 Broadway, 201-733-8293
- Elmwood Park, 246 Market St., 201-791-4578
- Glen Rock, 234 Rock Road, 201-251-1199
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