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Fire causes $150,000 in damage to Rocky's Pizza

September 01, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- A Sunday morning fire gutted Rocky's University New York Pizza on the Public Square, forcing the shop to close indefinitely and inspiring a push by the community to raise money for repairs.

The fire, which was reported at 5:40 a.m., damaged the pizzeria's equipment, wiring, plumbing, flooring, ceiling and air-conditioning system, owner Vinnie DiCola said Sunday. He estimated the fire caused about $150,000 in damage.

"The whole pizza shop is shot," DiCola said. "Everything's burnt to a crisp."

DiCola said the fire was accidental and might have been caused by equipment being left on.

DiCola, who lives in an apartment above the pizzeria, said he smelled the smoke before the smoke detector went off, got his roommate up and got out of the building. His Dalmatian was rescued by a firefighter who accessed the apartment by ladder, DiCola said.

All units of the Hagerstown Fire Department responded to the fire and firefighters were on the scene until about 8 a.m., Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker said. In addition to the damage to the restaurant, there was smoke damage to the upper floors, Hawbaker said.

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DiCola said the shop will remain closed until it can be repaired, but he hopes to reopen in a temporary location in the meantime.

"If there's a spot right there that I could move into for the next five months, for example where the Bones and Cones used to be, that could be a great spot," DiCola said.

Rocky's University New York Pizza has been at the corner of North Potomac and West Washington streets since 1968, DiCola said. The building was recently purchased by Demcore Development, which owns several other downtown properties. DiCola said previously he planned to close the restaurant in 2010 when his lease ran out, but he said Sunday that he decided to try to stay longer after receiving support from city officials. He plans to meet today with Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Tuesday with Demcore President Michael Deming to discuss the future of the pizzeria in downtown Hagerstown.

DiCola said he expects his insurance to cover only $50,000 in damages.

To help cover the difference, DiCola's friends, relatives and customers have begun planning fundraisers and soliciting donations. A friend started a Web site at www.saverockyspizza.com and DiCola's nephew, Kevin Lewis, bass player for the band Center Alley, is planning a "Rockin' for Rocky's" benefit concert for Sept. 14.

"Not only because Vince is a relative do I want to help him out, but I want to help him out because of what he's done for the community for the last 30 years," Lewis said. DiCola always finds money to give to church and community fundraisers, and has been known to give food to the homeless and hand out money from his own pocket, Lewis said.

"It was devastating to see someone who's given so much lose everything in the blink of an eye," Lewis said.

A venue has not been set for the benefit, Lewis said. Anyone interested in more information or in playing at the concert or contributing items for a raffle may e-mail Lewis at centeralleyband@aol.com.

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