This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
WEST CHESTER — New Haven Pizza owners Teddy, Bessie and Don Bottos know they can never thank the West Chester firefighters enough for risking their lives to put out the fire that broke out in the building along North Church and Market streets on June 15.
Though the pizza shop sustained only smoke damage, it was enough to put them out of business for two weeks as they renovated the inside.
New Haven Pizza, which has been a West Chester staple since 1970, moved to its current location on North Church Street five years ago.
But it could have all been over for the shop in just a single night.
“It was a nightmare,” Bessie Bottos said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
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Since the fire, the Bottos family has been spending 12 hours a day for the last two weeks in the shop.
“It was a total renovation,” Don Bottos said. “We had to replace the ceiling, the ductwork, the HVAC — everything. We had to sanitize as well.”
All the food and odds and ends had to be tossed, including something as simple as paper bags.
The first floor now looks like new without a single hint of smoke in the air — just delicious pizza — but the same can’t be said for the upstairs.
“The upper floors are not done yet,” Bessie Bottos said. “It’s going to take a good two or two and a half months to finish everything.”
They were ready to open New Haven Pizza as of Tuesday, but decided to push it back to instead thank the firefighters who battled the blaze.
“I always knew they worked hard, but when I saw them that night up in the roof, I thought, ‘Oh my God, they are risking their lives for our property,’” Bessie Bottos said. “I had to give something back to them.”
So the Bottos sent out invitations to each of the three fire companies in West Chester to come out and enjoy a lunch from them Tuesday afternoon.
It was an act of kindness none of the firefighters were expecting.
“They’re not even open yet,” said Paul Carpenter of Fame Fire Company. “People are always appreciative, but they’re busy with repairing their place and don’t think about us. To repair it and then say they need to do something for the fire companies is really nice.”
Along with New Haven Pizza, all three companies also received cookies recently from Kaplans Fine Jewelry as a thank you as well.
“It just so happened I was going to be with the family for lunch down at the fire house and we decided to just come up here (to New Haven Pizza),” Carpenter said. “I said I’d pay them and they said no way.”
The Bottos family welcomed the firefighters in with open arms, making sure to shake hands with them all and thank them for what they did.
Spread out on several tables was a buffet of various types of pizza, hoagies and chips — all free of charge.
And for any firefighters who were on duty and couldn’t make it, they sent several boxes of pizzas with those who came to take back to the fire houses.
New Haven will open its doors to the public again on Wednesday.
“We wanted to open today, but we said no, this was going to be for the firemen,” Bessie Bottos said. “This is not much, but it comes from our heart. (The firefighters) are worth more than that here.”