Fire damages Augustine’s, a New Castle family pizza business that caters to PNC Park
Owners of a decades-old family pizza business in New Castle remained devastated Sunday as they tried to determine the impact a weekend fire could have on their future.
“We’re crushed. This is our life,” said Augustine’s Pizza CEO and owner Frank Augustine, 26. “It’s all we know.”
Opened in 1957 by his grandparents and great-grandparents, the business expanded last year with a frozen-food line carried in Pittsburgh and throughout the region at 200 retailers, including Giant Eagle, Shop ‘n Save and Wal-Mart.
Augustine’s has sold pizza at PNC Park for four years, averaging about 20,000 pizzas each season, Augustine said. The company used to supply Heinz Field.
Workers produce between 2,400 and 2,600 pizzas each day, Augustine said. The business operates Monday through Friday, when it offers take-out pizza.
New Castle firefighters responded to a fire at the East Lutton Street business about 7:30 p.m. Saturday. No one was in the business, and no injuries were reported. Some workers had been cleaning inside about three hours earlier, Augustine said.
Fire officials could not be reached Sunday for an update on the investigation, though Augustine said he believes it started in the kitchen.
No estimates were available for the amount of damage.
Augustine said his grandmother, Sara Augustine, who started the business with her husband and his parents and who is the sole surviving founder, ran the business for decades and performed its bookkeeping until 2010. Now 84, she came Saturday night to watch as firefighters quelled the fire as it burned through the roof.
“It was devastating,” he said. “She was there for the very first pizza served.”
In the next few days, Augustine said they will be able to access the building and determine the extent of the damage. Notably, he said, two pieces of valuable equipment — one that sauces pizzas and another that wraps them — need to be examined. That will dictate how long the recovery could take.
“Without knowing that, it’s impossible to say,” Augustine said.
This is a busy time of the year, he said, with the company making pizzas for retailers and fundraising events.
“We’ve been really busy lately,” Augustine said. “We didn’t have much in stock. We didn’t have as much as we wished we had.”
The company is insured, and the family plans to rebuild, Augustine said.
“We want to continue. We don’t plan on this stopping us,” Augustine said. “I couldn’t imagine a world without Augustine’s Pizza.”
Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or [email protected].