Good pizza inspires loyalty.
That's the bright spot for Rod Aguillon, who owns on Main Street.
The pizzeria opened its doors again on Nov. 7, four months to the day after a fire ripped through the 44-48 Main Street building that houses Arcuri's, and clothing shop Crave.
In addition to shuttering the first-floor businesses, the fire rendered upstairs apartments uninhabitable, left several families homeless, and prompted an investigation that revealed "dozens upon dozens of fire safety and building code violations," according to the Department of Code Enforcement.
Business owners who rent space in the building had to weather months of lost revenue. Despite the danger to their livelihoods, they had no clear answers on when they could re-open.
Owner Harry Hedvat ignored a series of fire safety inspection notices dating back to 2010, according to village hall, and even the subsequent repair and renovation work at the building involved drama. Two months after the fire, a police officer noticed a three-year-old girl "hanging out of a third floor window" in the building.
When authorities went inside, they realized tenants were still living in the building, despite the fact that inspectors had declared the structure unsafe and off-limits and there was no electricity. They also filed 92 charges against owner Hedvat, who had begun repair work without acquiring permits.
While Hedvat wrangled with the village over permits, fines and charges, Acuri's remained closed and Aguillon couldn't do anything to expedite the process.
"Unfortunately we were stuck in the middle," he said.
Finally, after repairs, renovations and lots of waiting, Arcuri's is back in business. Aguillon said he's taken a big hit by losing almost the entire summer -- the "bread and butter" of any pizzeria -- but is encouraged by former regulars who have returned.
"A lot of people have been coming back," Aguillon said. "Even people that I don't remember have come in and said, 'I'm so happy you guys are open.' Port Chester is a small, tight community."
Counter staff at Arcuri's were able to find work in the interim, but most of them have returned to the Main Street pizzeria, and Aguillon said he's grateful for that. Once the neon sign was lit up for the first time in four months, customers started trickling in.
Employees at Arcuri's have been handing out fliers and depending on word-of-mouth, hoping business quickly returns to pre-fire levels. On Friday afternoon, customers streamed in from Main Street as a family with young children sat down, drawn by the smell of fresh pies and specialty slices.
"Slowly but surely, we're trying to get the word out," Aguillon said. "So far, so good."
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