GLEN ROCK, NJ – While New Jersey shutdown as part of an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, a Glen Rock pizzeria owner stepped up and did what he could to help frontline healthcare workers, as well as his fellow business owners.
For his dedication to the community, Salvatore Reina, the longtime owner of Francesca Brick Oven Pizza & Pasta, was recently presented with a Hometown Hero award, an annual recognition by Rep. Josh Gottheimer for citizens that give back to their community.
During the ceremony’s July 6 live stream, Gottheimer said Reina – along with 45 other honorees – are “unsung heroes” who “embody our Jersey Values and make our community such a special place to live, work and raise a family.”
Other award recipients include first responders, veterans, students, seniors and business owners in the Fifth District.
Reina, the owner of Francesca’s for the past 12-and-a-half years who just opened his third location last week in Fair Lawn, said he feels “blessed, honored and very thankful” for the award, a recognition that he believes wouldn’t be possible without the community.
Despite having to shutter his restaurant’s dining room, Reina was busy during the pandemic, filling orders for take-out and curbside pick-up.
Grateful to be able to stay in business, Reina was inspired to do what he could to support other stores that could not open their doors due to New Jersey’s restrictions under the shelter-in-place order.
Part of that effort included sharing menus and offerings from other local eateries on his social media pages. Reina also purchased gift certificates from them to help ease the loss of revenue and then raffled them off on his Facebook page, raising $13,000.
He then used the proceeds to purchase personal protective equipment for healthcare workers at nearby hospitals. Reina said the effort resulted in the donation of over 250,000 pairs of gloves and said it was one of his favorite moments as a business owner over the past 12 years.
“It was really amazing to be a part of,” Reina said, adding that about 90% of the donations came from Glen Rock residents.
Reina dedicated his award to the Glen Rock community and the staff of his pizzeria, past and present, “for all the many years of love and support.”
He also thanked the Glen Rock Chamber of Commerce and fellow business owners for nominating him as a Hometown Hero, saying, “Just the nomination means more to me than you know.”
Gottheimer said, “Sal is so selfless that instead of posting about his own business, he would post on social media about the businesses in Glen Rock to promote them during the pandemic. He is also responsible for donating pizza pies to frontline health care workers. Sal is a true Hometown Hero.”
Reina, along with the other honorees, Gottheimer said, “are actively helping us build a more perfect union.”
“We all should work to live up to their example,” he added.
As New Jersey continues the process of reopening following the outbreak, Reina said the restaurant will continue to “give back as much as possible in different ways and as often as we can.”
“For hospital and healthcare workers, we are continuing to donate pizza and put up that “thank you front line” mural in our window that we still proudly display. It’s really cool hearing how many people who work at hospitals or know someone who does say thanks for doing that,” he said. "And after the pandemic is over, I’m not sure what we’ll do. As things pop up, we always try to help.”