The 33-year-old Villa Rosa is trading its digs at the edge of the downtown district for a more centralized location, while the biggest vacancy on Kings Highway seems to have a new tenant in Passariello’s.
By Matt Skoufalos | November 30, 2016
Since 1988, Villa Rosa has delineated the edges of the Haddonfield central business district, holding down the storefront at 1 Kings Highway East with reliable recipes for slice pizza, Sicilian pies, stromboli, and more.
But after three decades, the cost of rent finally has outstripped the pace of business, and the family behind the shop has been forced to seek greener pastures.
With the closure of the Owl’s Tale antique store up the street, Villa Rosa owner Jimmy Rivas saw an opportunity to relocate deeper into the center of town—and into a building that he could eventually purchase.
“This is the end [of the business district],” he said from behind the counter at his shop at 1 Kings Highway East. “Everything [else] is in the middle.”
The work required to flip the storefront at 140 Kings Highway East into a pizza parlor is on target to wrap the end of January 2017, but Rivas said customers shouldn’t expect a lot of changes when it does.
“Everything moves,” he said. “Same numbers of seating. Same menu. Same cook. Same furniture.”
In operating at the corner of Kings Highway and Washington Avenue for so long, Rivas said his customers have become like family.
Consistency has driven them to his pizzeria over and over through the years, and Rivas expects foot traffic won’t drop off just because Villa Rosa changes locations.
“We’re very successful because of our food,” he said. “We know how to treat customers.”
The timing of the move is complicated, however. Not long after Villa Rosa plans to open up in the new shop, the long-vacant Summit Sampler building is expected to find its reinvention as the third location of Passaeriello’s Italian restaurant. The Moorestown-headquartered pizzeria had set its sights on the 7,000-square-foot property for years, said Ted Barber, the company’s director of design and construction.
“We’ve been looking at that site since 2013,” Barber said. “There’s been a lot of due diligence and gut-checking, and we finally made the decision that we hope comes to fruition.”
Passaeriello’s has received zoning and historic board approvals to build a 150-seat restaurant in the building, but Barber is reticent about celebrating the deal until all its ancillary details have been resolved with the public utilities.
“The plans are being worked on right now,” Barber said. “We assume we could be in to permitting around the first of the year, and then we would go into the general construction bidding process, the award, and then the construction.”
Barber said the building approximates the size of the Voorhees Passierello’s location and is “a little bit bigger than our Moorestown seating.
“Everything will be the same,” he said; “the same good food, the same freshness, the same menu.
“We don’t want to be presumptuous, but we’re working very hard,” Barber said.
“We’ve committed quite a bit of resources to this project, and we hope that everything works out.”
If the deal goes through as planned, Passaeriello’s will be at least the fourth business to have a foothold in both Haddonfield and Moorestown, joining the Running Company, Oriental Pearl, and Happy Hippo as the small businesses that operate storefronts on Kings Highway and Main Street.
“We think it’s very unique and very similar to what we have in Moorestown,” Barber said. “[Haddonfield is] a walking town with a local flair, and it seems to be doing well.”
Rivas isn’t cowed at the prospect of operating his family business across the street from an equally established shop, and neither is Barber.
“No matter who comes into town, we’re not going anywhere,” Rivas said.
“We’re going to stay forever. A new generation is going to come for Villa Rosa.”
“It’ll be the customers’ choice on which pizza they would rather have that day, but I think it’s good to have a selection for people to choose from,” Barber said.
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