Tony’s Pizza Pit, Frontera suffer damage from fire

Nina Ajemian/The Miscellany News.

Early Wednesday morning, Feb. 1, firefighters responded to an alarm at 786 Main Street. Tony’s Pizza Pit, a family-owned business that has faithfully served the Arlington community for over 50 years, was consumed in flames. Multiple emergency response departments across Poughkeepsie arrived at the scene, and after hours of fighting the blaze amidst brutally cold weather conditions, the fire was extinguished around noon that same day, as reported by The Wolf. Thankfully, there were no casualties. 

 

The Miscellany News contacted Battalion Chief George Finn, Fire Investigator and Fire Prevention Officer for the Arlington Fire Department, who stated that the investigation is ongoing; as of now, he cannot comment on the cause of the fire. However, Finn reported, “[The fire] was in the rear of 786 Main Street, that’s Tony’s Pizza Pit, and burned that structure and extended into 784 Main Street, which is a three-story, multi-use dwelling.” The Pizza Pit was completely destroyed, along with the nearby Arlington Exchange and a salon. The four apartments above the exchange and salon were severely burned, and four additional apartments in the neighboring building also suffered damages. Occupants of these complexes were left in various states of injury and disarray. “Roughly, I don’t have an exact number, but approximately 16 occupants from 788 and another roughly 12 occupants from 784 were displaced in the care of the Red Cross on that evening,” said Finn. 

 

The Balbo Family, the current owners of Tony’s, released a statement on Instagram, thanking the emergency responders for their courageous efforts and assuring their customers that despite the tragic event, Tony’s Pizza Pit will reopen: “We have enjoyed serving our community since 1969, and have every intention to continue to serve our loyal customers for another 100 years. Our founders, Tony & Maria Balbo, taught us the valuable lessons of grit, determination, and passion. We do not intend to stray from those ideals today.” 

 

This statement is a relief to many students who feel that Tony’s is an integral part of their life at Vassar. Becca Spence ’25 first heard about the fire from a friend who sent an article about the disaster to the Multiracial/Biracial Students’ Alliance (MBSA) group chat. “I was in the library, and I audibly gasped when I opened the news article. It was hard to grasp that a place that MBSA had gotten food from just a week ago could be destroyed overnight,” she said. “Tony’s has been a staple for MBSA that we would often order from and share with our members. It’s become a fun tradition for us. I think Tony’s had the best pizza near Vassar, so it’ll be hard to find another classic spot like that.”

Nina Ajemian/The Miscellany News.

This is not the only fire that has plagued the Arlington business community in the past month. Frontera Tacos & Tequila, another family-owned business only a short walk away from campus, is temporarily closed due to a fire in their kitchen, according to its Facebook page. Chief Finn gave his report from the scene, saying, “It was a grease fire inside of a can. The cook/owner burnt his hand. It was a pretty minor fire with respect to damage, and the injury wasn’t that significant. But it caused the kitchen to be shut down.” Adhering to protocol, the Health Department and Building Department were summoned to inspect the quality of the food and the cleanliness of the kitchen following the fire. Despite the small size of the fire, it has been over three weeks since Frontera closed their doors. In response to this, Finn stated, “You’d have to call the Health Department to get a comment on why [Frontera] continued to get shut down. I’m not sure about that. But from the firefighter’s perspective, it was a one-day event—small fire. Very little damage or extension.”

 

Like Tony’s, with its friendly staff and proximity to campus, Frontera’s closing affects many Vassar students who frequented the restaurant. “Frontera is a restaurant that my girlfriend and I consistently go to,” said Thomas Cameron ’24. “Its close proximity makes it a perfect on-the-fly date spot. The owners would always go out of their way to chat with us and make us feel special. Frontera will be missed.” The restaurant’s future remains unclear. 

 

Bryan Swarthout, Vassar’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, responded to the two accidents on behalf of the Vassar Administration in an email correspondence: “We were saddened to hear of the fires at Frontera and Tony’s. They both are unfortunate incidents, but thankfully no one was hurt.” He continued on to explain the importance of fire safety at Vassar, including fire drills and the annual New York State fire inspections. “Coincidentally, this week we announced that the New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) will begin its annual campus fire inspection on February 14, 2023,” he said. When asked how he predicts these fires will affect the student body and the greater Poughkeepsie community, Swarthout stated, “I can’t say how students will be affected, but I think at times like this it is important for communities to come together to show support and help when possible… Unfortunately, Tony’s was completely destroyed. After 50 years in that location, as an established fixture in Arlington, it will be a real loss for the community.” 

 

Hopefully, Tony’s Pizza Pit will soon begin the slow process of rebuilding so that future Vassar students and the larger Arlington community can enjoy their food for years to come.  

 

Nina Ajemian/The Miscellany News.

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