Schenectady County

Nico’s Pizza to dress up its entrance

The painted Italian flag that has slowly chipped, peeled and faded away above a downtown pizzeria is
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The painted Italian flag that has slowly chipped, peeled and faded away above a downtown pizzeria is now being ripped down as the Nico’s Pizza owners celebrate their first days as official owners of the building.

They said they’ve been wanting to tear down that facade for decades but they held off for fear of putting expensive touches on a building they might never own.

But all along, they held onto a lease that offered an option to buy at the end of 2007. When New Year’s arrived, they handed over $215,000 to landlord Jay Musler, put up scaffolding and got to work.

“What’s up there now was put up probably because it was cheap,” said co-owner David Sherman, who estimates that it was painted 20 to 30 years ago. “We’ve always looked to improve it.”

And work hasn’t come a moment too soon, said Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen.

The facade is so bad that he said it’s actually hurt the agency’s efforts to market an empty storefront next door. But when Gillen tried to sweet-talk Sherman and co-owner Phil Ruggiero into sprucing up the place, they demurred until Gillen got Musler to sit down with them and negotiate a sale.

“It was one of those stand-offs — they didn’t own the building so they didn’t want to put any money into it,” Gillen said. “It’s in pretty bad shape. We love the fact that they’re owner-investors now.”

FIRST-CLASS EFFORT

Sherman and Ruggiero are sparing no expense with their new property. Far from slapping some paint on a wall, they’ve hired an architect and put together plans for a sophisticated entrance.

The outside will be covered in granite, with mahogany doors, in keeping with the other upscale facades on the block. That alone will cost $100,000 — half as much as the cost of the entire building. Metroplex will cover $50,000 of the bill.

Inside, the old plastic booths will be replaced with fancier tables and chairs.

But it will still be the same old-style pizzeria.

“We’re known for having people in and out in five, 10 minutes,” Sherman said. “We’ll still do that. A lot of people at lunch only have 15, 20 minutes. If people only have 15 minutes before a show at Proctors, they don’t have the time to sit down somewhere, so they get a slice of pizza from us.”

Still, the pizzeria will look somewhat different when renovations are complete. Soups may be added to the menu, the pizza ovens will move to the back of the restaurant and Nico’s will add their first non-cooking employee. That person’s job will be to fill orders.

“It’ll be a little bit easier to get food out instead of having a pizza-maker waiting on customers,” Sherman said.

Now that they own the building, they’re also renovating the upstairs. They plan to turn the upper floors into two-bedroom apartments.

The renovations will be expensive, but Sherman said they’ve saved money for years in preparation for this day.

“We’ve been a front row seat to all the work downtown,” Sherman said. “Now it’s our turn.”

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