Less than 10 months after catching fire, Ruggiero’s Pizza in Guilderland is serving pizzas again.
“We’ve been pretty busy,” co-owner Joe Ruggiero said last week.
The pizza shop closed after a broken gas line supplying a rooftop heating unit started the fire around 5 p.m. Dec. 20 at the commercial building at 3905 Carman Road, which is home to two other businesses. The Dance Studio received less damage and reopened within several weeks of the fire, Ruggiero said. The dental offices of Dr. Steve Oshins remain closed, but could be reopening later this month, he said.
Ruggiero’s re-opened Oct. 7.
“There’s no words to describe the feelings that you feel when you’re watching your place on fire, and the whole process of getting back open, there’s a lot of times that you don’t feel like pushing it forward, but you have to,” Ruggiero said.
Ruggiero said it was important to rebuild because “this is how my family makes a living. This is how I pay my bills. This is how we live. This is how the people that work here make their living.”
Six of the restaurant’s 12 current employees worked there before the fire, some for more than 10 years, he said.
“We’re not really your average place like Papa John’s where we don’t care who’s working,” he said.
The first Ruggiero’s was opened in Socha Plaza in Glenville in 1989 by Joe’s parents, Tony and Ida, and Joe’s brother, John, runs that restaurant. The Guilderland pizzeria opened in 2000, and Ruggiero said it’s been a good location since the beginning. His sister, Gina, also works at the shop in Guilderland.
“After 14 years being here, we wanted to make sure we came back in the same spot doing the same thing we did beforehand,” he said.
Ruggiero thanked his landlord, Tom Hoffman, for getting to work on structural repairs — the roof was heavily damaged by the fire — as soon as the weather allowed in February, before the insurance money arrived. Had he waited for the money, the pizza shop wouldn’t be opening for another four or five months, he said.
“Most landlords would’ve waited until they got their check in July to start the work,” he said. “We didn’t want to be closed a day, let alone 91⁄2 months.”
Hoffman’s repairs involved removing anything that absorbed smoke or sustained water damage, including the sheetrock and insulation.
“It was stripped down to the metal studs,” Ruggiero said. “It was basically like starting from scratch, only worse, because when we first rented it, we at least had four walls.”
The remaining renovations cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, most of which he hopes will be reimbursed through his insurance.
“I’m still dealing with our insurance company on a daily basis,” he said.
Everything in the shop had to be replaced — including floors, countertops, coolers, electrical wiring and fixtures, even the silverware.
The menu is the same, but the restaurant does have a “new look,” Ruggiero said, with a redesigned dining area, a soda fountain, wireless internet and more outlets for people to plug devices into.
“We’ve been very happy with all of the customers so far that have been coming back, and we appreciate their patience and their patronage,” Ruggiero said.