Palmyra pizza shop rises from the ashes
Updated: Tuesday, October 29 2013, 07:23 PM EDT
Palmyra, N.Y. - Mark Crane is in the kitchen of his pizza shop preparing to "throw down some dough" just as he did when he first opened in this location 30 years ago. "Today is a very exciting day, I can't tell you how good I feel," he said.
Seven months ago fire destroyed an historic section of of the Village of Palmyra, taking down four buildings first built in 1840. One of them housed the flagship "Mark's Pizzeria."
"When it first saw it I was really sad because I knew in my heart it was going to have to come down because there wasn't a lot left," Crane recalled.
John Langschultz stopped into the opening day of the new pizzeria with a story of his own. He lived in an apartment the day the fire struck. On May 3, he lost everything.
"I opened the door and the place was so full of smoke I said 'lets get out of here' and we just ran,' he said. "I left everything. Money, clothes, everything."
Police say the fire was deliberately set by a resident in one of the upstairs apartments. Christina Nicklaw is charged with arson. The aftermath left gaping ruins in the center of downtown. It was feared no one would take on the burden or expense to rebuild.
"In my mind there was never a question that we would rebuild," said Crane.
Demolition came in July after months of fighting to acquire the other buildings and remove the asbestos inside them. Each step was watched by families who have called this community home - in some cases for generations.
"I used to ride my bike here after school and put together pizza boxes," recalled Jeff Vanderwege. "Mark would always give me a slice of pizza and a pop."
Vanderwege is now grown, he was 11 at that time. Like much of the village he turned out to see the grand opening. "The day of the fire I was actually here to see noth just this building but the others. I'm glad to see him rebuild."
Mark's Pizzeria now occupies the footprint of three of the four buildings that were destroyed. John Langschultz has since found himself another home but returned to the location for a slice and a soda. "We watched it go up brick by brick and we figured when they opened we would just sit down and enjoy it all," he said.
On the walls hang a menu from 1983 and some blackened newspaper clippings - all salvaged from the fire and a reminder of the history that binds this business with the community and the downtown location it calls home.
"Today is a very exciting day," said Crane.