Hagerstown pizza shop owner surprised at outpouring of support

September 03, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- As Vinnie DiCola stood outside the charred remains of Rocky's University New York Pizza in downtown Hagerstown, he said he was amazed by the outpouring of public support.

It was early Sunday that DiCola narrowly escaped from a fire that seriously damaged his business and the upstairs apartment in which he lived on Public Square in Hagerstown.

"It's pretty rough," DiCola said. "I was hoping to get up and go to work this morning. I'm just happy to be alive."

While DiCola dealt with insurance adjusters Tuesday, his friends set up a collection box and sold sandwiches in front of the business to help pay for DiCola's expenses.


"Vinnie's been a good neighbor for a long time," said Bill Clowser, owner of bikle's ski shop across the alley from Rocky's. "I was saddened and worried about Vinnie and his crew ... I hope he comes back soon."

DiCola said he met Tuesday with several city officials, including Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Economic Development Director Deborah Everhart, to discuss his options. He said he looked at space at 2 S. Potomac St., the site of the former Bones & Cones Dessertery, but thought it might be too small for a pizza shop.

"My neighbors want me to stay," DiCola said. "The mayor said he wants me to stay on the square."

Pat Kubala, a friend of the DiCola family, said he and a few friends obtained a permit from the city to sell hot dogs, burgers and sodas outside of Rocky's from noon to 8 p.m. for the next two weeks.

"The money is going to be given to the (DiCola) family to use however they need it," Kubala said. "We've had random people just come up and drop off money."

Kubala said Tuesday afternoon they had raised close to $250 since the food stand opened Monday.

Scott Wilkinson, a copy editor for High Rock at 10 Public Square, said he often ate at Rocky's to feed his "pizza addiction."

"The place had a lot of character," Wilkinson said. "They won't be able to re-create it, whatever they do."

Mike Deming, who owns the Rocky's building at 1 Public Square, said he doesn't know what will happen to the structure until the insurance agents make an assessment. DiCola's lease on the building was to expire in 2010, Deming said.

DiCola said the fire did about $150,000 worth of damage.

A fire marshal could not be reached for comment.

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