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 as a third-generation owner from the original family, many customers were worried that he’d change too much and lose the familiarity of a restaurant that had been in business since 1944. After all, not much had changed since Fred Scialla—a veteran baker—and his wife Grace opened the place in 1944 (except when the business moved across the street in ’52). Even in these early days, according to Brockriede, in this area, demanded by servicemen returning from overseas and the already large population of Italian immigrants in the area. “There were two pizzerias basically across the 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 of their offspring wanted to continue it, Brockriede stepped up for the family (Fred Scialla was his father’s uncle).
Brockriede made some changes to the pizzeria, such as adding delivery for the first time in more than 60 years of business, adding more toppings and specialty pies to the menu, 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 as always, and we don’t offer slices or Sicilian pies,” he explains. “I keep it the same because I don’t know how to do pizza any other way than ours!” Loyal customers, appreciate the traditions, coming in for generations sit at the oversized tables in large groups, and entering through the rear door to order takeout at the back counter and watch their pies get made. Meanwhile, a newer about eight years old) loyalty program—buy 10 pies, get large cheese pie for free—has been one of the greatest tools for bringing customers in and breeding allegiance. About 10 to 20 people might redeem these cards in a given night,” marvels Brockriede. “That’s a lot of people who have bought 10 pies from us!”