How a pizzeria owner is reckoning with a personal health crisis while trying to keep his business open


“We rough it out and see what happens”: How a pizzeria owner is reckoning with a personal health crisis while trying to keep his business open

We shut down the dining room at Frank’s Pizza House last Thursday nightdays before we had to. My kids were hanging out here, since theyre home from school, and I wanted to be safe. Over the weekend, we had about a 50 per cent drop in traffic, and today—Ive been here since the morning—weve only had one order.

My staff is self-isolating, since most of them have kids, and Im here working with my dad. I havent gone public about this before, and most of my customers dont know, but Im losing my vision. This week, Ive just had to come to terms with that. Ive had advanced glaucoma my whole life, and in the past year its really taken a toll on me. I have no vision in my right eye and no peripheral in my left. Starting about a year ago, I started working less, and my wife took over the business, but now shes home with the kids.

I havent even really been outside in a couple of days, because when I walk into a store, I have to touch ledges, maybe hold onto somebodys shoulder. I cant even get on a streetcar, I think Id have an anxiety attack. I dont use my cane out in public, because Im embarrassed. People might look at me and say, this guys running a restaurant? He should stay home. But I have six kids. I cant stay home.

Since this all began, I’ve stopped paying for ads, because I figure, why waste money? Im also trying to figure out what to order for supplies. Do I buy fresh produce or just non-perishables like pepperoni and canned olives? Is it worth spending money on peppers and mushrooms if its just going to go bad? Are they going to shut me down? If this continues at this rate, were going to have no income. I can hold on for maybe 30 days. Its a tough pill to swallow. Weve been in business since ’97, and in all that time, weve never missed a bill payment. Ive extended my hours—Im basically here from lunch to 11 p.m. most days, and will stay beyond that if needed. 

I just want people to help each other out in the community right now. Buy a pizza for someone who cant make food at home. If someone doesn’t have enough food, I’ll give them the pizza for free. Its not about the money right now, since were all in the same boat. We rough it out and see what happens. My staff already knows they eat here for free as long as this lasts.

I think were going to get through this, but it might just be the beginning. And if someone out there needs help, my doors are open.

—As told to Liza Agrba