John’s Wildwood holds on to hopes of 2019 return

Category:  News
Friday, October 18th, 2019 at 11:30 AM
John’s Wildwood holds on to hopes of 2019 return by Courtney Balcombe
John's Wildwood Pizzeria Owner, John Bellucci, showed The Spectator around the Edinboro pizzeria post-fire. | Photo: Zachary Mixter

From game day to 2 a.m. study sessions, “Nothing brings people together like pizza,” reads the John’s Wildwood Pizzeria Facebook page.

Since the beginning of the fall semester, though, that hasn’t been an option for Edinboro students.

Owner John Bellucci, 61, has been working at reopening the local favorite following a fire in June. 

The fire originated inside the kitchen, as an oven was spewing out small flames through the top, causing damage to the ductwork and the interior of the building. Various fire crews were brought in, including from the nearby fire hall. Many of those locals were in regular clothing due to a meeting that was happening at the time, and they helped put the fire out in about an hour. Bellucci credited the fire crews for their help.

Bellucci was able to keep most of the equipment: the mixing bowls and backup oven, along with the pinball machine and claw game some customers may remember. Salvaging the original floor boards from the main entrance, he would like to reuse the boards for a crafty project to keep his favorite aspects of the old shop around.

Any food or drinks that were in the building, even in the basement where there was no damage, was thrown out eight days after the insurance company allowed Bellucci to get rid of everything.

“Food quality is of utmost importance to me,” he said. “Everything is made fresh, there are no preservatives in our dough.”
Many of the employees Bellucci had working at the Edinboro location were still paid over the summer due to business interruption insurance. Some went to work at the Erie location, while others had a second job. He believes most of his employees will come back after the work is completed and they’re ready to reopen.

Not only an Edinboro native, but also an employee at John’s, Dan McClune has grown up and become used to seeing the pizzeria open.
“Other than the standard answer of being bummed that I cannot order food to my door at virtually any time,” McClune began, “the sense of community involved with not only working there but frequenting John’s has come to a halt.”

Since Bellucci owns the century-old building, the ductwork for his new oven will go through the ceiling to the second and third floors. He is working on a smaller part in the construction process while he waits on insurance and other obstacles blocking the reopening.
Neither the hours of operation or menu will see any changes.

To fill you in on the history, as a former Edinboro State College student, Bellucci had wanted to fulfill his father’s dream of owning a pizzeria. He ended up leaving Edinboro State College at 21 years old to open John’s. Now 40 years later, he is distraught about having to close the Edinboro location due to the damage, and would “go crazy” if he didn’t have the Erie location open.

Luckily, business has not slowed down since Edinboro customers are making the drive to the Erie location. Even customers from as far away as Meadville have made the drive. The large quantity of orders to the Erie location have slowed the food-making process there, however, people are still willing to endure an hour’s wait for John’s signature pies, hoagies, and sides.

Bellucci talked about the years of ownership. “They were children coming in with their parents, and pretty soon they’re coming in with their friends. Then they come in with their kids, and then it’s their kids coming in with their kids. But 40 years — there’s a lot of generations coming in over the years.”

Many customers are distraught over the incident and many reached out to Bellucci about when the shop would reopen.

John’s had a few close calls in the past. According to The Meadville Tribune, there was a threat of fire to the pizzeria in 2010 when three businesses next to the building caught on fire and the flames were close to one of the sides of the building.

Spartansburg native Jeffrey Massung spent homecoming weekend with his girlfriend at Edinboro University. During the parade, they stopped outside the pizzeria to buy a large pie.

“It’s a very delightful pizzeria, with good pizzas in a nice environment,” Massung said. “The staff was very polite and friendly. I can’t wait for them to be open in Edinboro again.”

McClune has grown very fond of the shop over the years.

“[Anyone] coming into Edinboro from out of town or just passing by late at night, John’s is always lit up and open no matter how late it is. The lit-up storefront is a comfortable sight that I have come to know and it’s weird not having it.”

Bellucci would like to hold an open interview day for any needed employees, but closer to their reopening date. After four months, he is still unsure of when they will be open again, but he’ll keep up the work to bring his pizzeria back to the people of Edinboro hopefully by the end of the year.

Tags: news

View Our YouTube Channel
Edinboro TV
 
Find Us on Instagram