When Mark Brockriede, current owner of Freddie’s Restaurant& Pizzeria (freddiespizzeria.com) in Long Branch,New Jersey, took over the pizzeria’s operations in 1995 asa third-generation owner from the original family, manycustomers were worried that he’d change too much andlose the familiarity of a restaurant that had been in businesssince 1944. After all, not much had changed sinceFred Scialla—a veteran baker—and his wife Grace openedthe place in 1944 (except when the business moved across thestreet in ’52). Even in these early days, according to Brockriede, in this area, demanded by servicemen returning from overseas and the already largepopulation of Italian immigrants in the area. “There were two pizzerias basically acrossthe street from Freddie’s, and they were all doing well,” laughs Brockriede. The Sciallas’four sons eventually took over the business and ran it for 40 years, but when none oftheir offspring wanted to continue it, Brockriede stepped up for the family (Fred Sciallawas his father’s uncle).
Brockriede made some changes to the pizzeria, such as adding delivery for the firsttime in more than 60 years of business, adding more toppings and specialty pies to themenu, and even developing a whole-wheat crust and take-and-bake options for customers.But some things he would never alter. “We make our thin-crust pizza the same asalways, and we don’t offer slices or Sicilian pies,” he explains. “I keep it the same because I don’t know howto do pizza any other way than ours!” Loyal customers,appreciate the traditions, coming in for generationssit at the oversized tables in large groups, and enteringthrough the rear door to order takeout at the back counterand watch their pies get made. Meanwhile, a newerabout eight years old) loyalty program—buy 10 pies, getlarge cheese pie for free—has been one of the greatesttools for bringing customers in and breeding allegiance.About 10 to 20 people might redeem these cards in agiven night,” marvels Brockriede. “That’s a lot of peoplewho have bought 10 pies from us!”