When Philip Bottos wanted to branch out at his hoagie operation in Secane, Pennsylvania, pizza slinging family members in Massachusetts inspired him to establish Secane Pizza with partner John Kokalis in 1966.
With a dream location next to the town’s post office, the small shop (less than 1,000 square feet) introduced a simple menu of hot oven grinders and pizza, baked in 10” pans and served in a bag on paper plates—an alternative to the area’s hand-tossed Italian pies.
The pizzeria pair had a flair for old-fashioned marketing hustle, and lines of customers soon wound out the door on Friday nights. A delivery car, complete with a handpainted car-top sign, spread the word from day one with the pizzeria’s name and phone number. Even pizza boxes encouraged return visits; customers collected 10 punch-out squares for a free pie, an old-school sales hook that remains popular today. “We’re as mom-and-pop as they get,” says Renee Bottos, co-owner of Secane Pizza with husband Ted, Philip’s son. “We’re still feeding the generations Ted’s father fed, and we get new customers by advertising and a lot of word-of-mouth. It’s truly a labor of love.”
Ted, who slept on flour bags as a baby, took over operations in 1985. About 30 relatives operate different pizzerias nationwide, but employees also become family (Secane’s 60-year-old cashier started at 14). And after decades of success, Secane Pizza expanded to 1,800 square feet in 2006 by moving to a shopping center location with dine-in and an always-evolving menu, including patron-inspired recipes like Buffalo Chicken Cheese Fries. “Customers like consistency and seeing the same faces, but we also try new things and give younger kids opportunities to learn a great work ethic,” Renee says. “We’re not a big store, but we’re good to the community and very hands-on; one of us is always here.”
Philip Bottos and John Kokalis opened Secane Pizza in 1966
The pizzeria maintains close relationships with nearby businesses and contributes to fundraisers for schools, churches and the local fire department, but traditional advertising and a Facebook page with special offers also keep the business thriving. Last April, Secane Pizza celebrated 50 years with a mayoral proclamation and weekend-long, cake-fueled festivities that offered free branded swag and appetizers, plus a “buy one pizza, get a second for the original price of $1” deal (the special will return periodically throughout the year). “We’re here 50 years, and it all started with two Greek immigrants who had nothing and barely spoke English,” Renee concludes. “We say our secret’s in the pans.”
“And lots of love,” Ted chimes in. “This business in my blood, but you have to be dedicated to it and love it.”
— Tracy Morin