PORTSMOUTH — Maria Spanos and Lindsey Rezendes were out getting their nails done today when they had a sudden craving for a buffalo chicken pizza and mozzarella sticks.
Luckily for them, it was the same day West Main Pizza re-opened its doors after having been closed since April 21 due to fire.
“We were like, ‘We’re calling,’ We had to order something,” said Ms. Rezendes.
“I was more excited about getting pizza then getting my nails done,” added Ms. Spanos.
Before the fire, the two friends were coming in two or three times a week. Ms. Spanos said she felt bad for West Main’s employees when the restaurant was forced to temporarily shut its doors.
“I have a lot of friends who work here,” said Ms. Spanos. “Everybody who works here, grew up here. Everyone knows each other. When I heard they were re-opening, I was really happy for them — and for us.”
“Thank God,” added Ms. Rezendes, nodding in agreement.
There were smiles all around Monday, and business was so good that empty parking spots were hard to come by.
“It’s been a big day,” said Gary Rahilly, who owns the restaurant along with his wife, Emily. “It’s nice to be back in business, to see all the old faces again and people coming back in. We’re going from 11 (a.m.) until whenever the phone stops ringing tonight. We’ll just keep making them.”
Much work was done on the building in the nearly four months it was closed, he said.
“Ninety percent of the electrical has been replaced, and there was a lot of smoke damage. So all the insulation had to come out, all the ceilings had to come out — a lot of cleanup,” said Mr. Rahilly.
Although being closed for four months has been tough on the Rahillys, they’ve seen an outpouring of support from patrons, who have flooded their Facebook page for weeks in anticipation of the re-opening. One loyal customer, Tara Juselis, even asked whether the restaurant was taking any pre-orders.
Local businesses and organizations have also come to the rescue, with the Portsmouth Business Association (PBA) making a sizable donation. “We met as a board and we all decided this was the right thing to do for someone in need,” said John Farley, PBA president.
The restaurant has also received support from the Aquidneck Island Striper Team, R&R Construction, Toner Electric, Peters Plumbing, Visiting Nurse Association and others. “They’ve all been really good,” said Mr. Rahilly.
Although Ms. Rahilly said there have been plenty of “sleepless nights,” the Hathaway School secretary said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of her co-workers. “Hathaway teachers and staff presented me with a gift box filled with gift cards from all over the island. I just used the last one,” she said.
In addition Ms. Rahilly, who doesn’t normally work in the summer, was hired for a temporary clerical job in the school district’s informational technology department. That also helped pay the bills, she said.
Buffalo chicken pizza — a West Main favorite — was the biggest seller Monday. Mr. Rahilly said this, in fact, as he stood next to three separate patrons who had ordered the dish. One of them was Peter Turano, who chowed down with a grape soda at the ready.
“I was coming in twice a week. I live right up the street,” he said.
Mr. Rahilly said there’s still some work to be done inside the pizza place, known for its eclectic decor.
“We’ve probably got 100 or 120 pictures still to hang up. We’ll get there.”