Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Popular Italian eatery moves to Flying W Airport (N14), Lumberton, New Jersey

MEDFORD — Mario Pirone came to America from Italy in October 1971, coincidentally on his 16th birthday.   

He worked for a while as a dishwasher and, eventually, opened his own restaurant at the age of 21.

That didn’t work out, but Pirone didn’t give up. He kept plugging away in the food industry until he found success with his Italian restaurant, Pirone’s, on Woodlane Road in Westampton where he established a reputation for more than 17 years.

Now Pirone, 55, has moved the popular restaurant to the Flying W Airport on Fostertown Road in bustling Medford.

“A lot of my customers followed me,” Pirone said. “I had customers in Lumberton and Medford. They told me, ‘We’re glad you moved. We’re right around the corner.’ ”

Pirone closed his restaurant in Westampton in March and opened at the Flying W in May in time for a busy Memorial Day weekend.

Part of the reason for the change was simply the economy, said Pirone, an Eastampton resident who grew up in Princetown, where he learned English.

At the Westampton locale, some customer loss was due to the closing of the nearby police academy.

Then a friend, who also happened to be an attorney, suggested he move to the Flying W.

The Flying W, owned by John and Dawn Cave, is more than an airport. It has a motel, swimming pool and tiki bar. Founded in the 1960s, the Flying W was purchased by the Caves in 1996 for $2 million. They started adding amenities in 2000.

That was another advantage for Pirone: The larger restaurant and the liquor license he lacked in Westampton.

“The extra space is good,” said Pirone. “We can do parties all over the place.”

Medford Township officials were happy with the new business in the town too.

“We welcome new business,” said Mayor Randy Pace. “We are working on bringing new business in. Everybody has to work toward the same goal of revitalization.”

Michael Pagnotta, a local businessman and architect, said the town has “a lot of irons in the fire.”

“We have a lot of people interested in investing in Medford,” said Pagnotta, chairman of the township economic development commission. “We’ve come though some hard times ... but I think things are looking up.”

Pirone said his menu has remained the same and he retained his employees from the old restaurant.

Once he has completed renovations to parts of the restaurant, he will slow down — a little bit.

“I’ll cut back when I get things in order,” he said. “The hours I don’t mind. I like what I do.”

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