BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Mother’s Day, Athens Pizza House, 83 Westminster St. in Bellows Falls, offered a special giveaway to the community as a token of their appreciation. In just two-and-a-half hours, they gave away 300 pizzas and drinks to folks in vehicles that lined both Hapgood and Atkinson streets. Owner Rich Senerchia wanted to thank everyone for their support that enabled him to keep his entire staff these last two months.
Rich said, “It’s not just a business; it’s family, it’s community.” His fiancée and manager Sarah Jockell has been there for over 12 years and helped raise his sons, Domenic and Nico.
Notable staff include William Davidson of 17-plus years and 25-plus years employees Heath Towsley, Gordon Moore, David Dunn, Jason Meuse, and the late Larry Parker. Rich said there were “many, many more employees that have been there two to five years.”
Parker passed in March and was with them for 30 straight years. Rich shared, “It was a tough blow. He was a great friend and employee.” He laughed, “He was the only one who had a key and the recipe for the dough!”
Meuse shared on Facebook, “I am truly blessed to have the Senerchias in my life and I feel like Sarah is the glue that holds us all together…”
Rich explained that he raised his sons alone, but through the years the family at Athens helped take care of them and they grew up working at the restaurant. Nico works in the ER, is a lieutenant in the Fire Department, and is a rescue diver. Domenic graduated from Vermont Academy with a hockey scholarship, is currently finishing his degree, and coaches hockey and baseball at VA.
The Bellows Falls franchise of Athens Pizza is the oldest and was originally in the centennial building on the square. Rich arrived in 1980, joined the crew, learned the process, and began a partnership. He mentioned the owners are “all still great friends, running business together, it’s amazing.”
In August, Rich has plans for a party to celebrate 40 years of Athens Pizza, held on the Sunday of Old Home Days weekend, adding “for the town, if allowed.”
COVID-19 has caused a few changes and like other times of economical strain, the owners have stepped up. Rich said, “Sarah and I [have been there] day and night since the pandemic. We kept it going and we did not lose any of our employees – actually we are trying to find help.”
Athens Pizza has offered financial coupons and created family pizza kits and dinners. Rich said he’s heard positive feedback from the community. He explained they have added safety seal stickers and added more sanitation stations.
Rich said about Athens Pizza, “We created a different place, a place parents can drop their kids off for dinner.”
About his employees, “We support each other like family.” He reminisced many times through the years he had mothers and daughters working together. On Sunday, he greeted folks by name and saw third generation families coming to show their appreciation.
For more information about Athens Pizza, go to www.athenspizzaonline.com or visit their Facebook page.