By Sarah Hite Hando, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.
Owner Mark Bronberg switches up menu, but ’80s atmosphere remains
WILKES-BARRE — Not much has changed at Mimmo’s Pizza & Restaurant in three decades.
Owner Mark Bronberg likes it that way.
He purposely kept the decor similar to what it was like back in 1982, when Dominic Buonsante first opened the pizza joint on Public Square.
“We may have added these,” he said, shaking the branch of a tall faux plant between tables. “But that’s it.”
Bronberg and his wife, Nancy, are celebrating 35 years in business on March 8. Longtime customer Diane Brewster plans to make a special cake for the celebration, which the Bronbergs will share with their customers.
Plenty around the shop has changed, but their focus is still the same — providing good food to the masses.
Mark Bronberg, of West Wyoming, said he worked for Buonsante at Mimmo’s Dallas location before he bought the restaurant on Public Square in the late 1980s.
Bronberg said at one time he employed between eight and 10 people at his pizzeria. Now, the only employees are Mark and Nancy. Nancy quit her full-time job in the mortgage industry to help Mark at the restaurant nearly a decade ago, but she was happy to support her husband then and now.
“I’ll be here until my ticker stops,” she said. “I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
The couple has three children — Paige, 25, Mariah, 19, and Damien, 16 — all of whom have been encouraged not to dabble in the family business.
“I don’t want them to take over,” said Nancy. “I don’t want them to struggle. Not that this hasn’t provided us with a good life, but it’s work.”
But the kids have been part of the business since the beginning. Mark and Nancy used to sit the youngsters near a front window to play as their parents took care of business, which drew a lot of attention from passersby.
“That was fun,” said Nancy.
Mark said the changes downtown, including the movement of Social Security offices from Penn Place to the Stegmaier Building in 1997 and Martz Trailways and Luzerne County Transportation Authority from Public Square in 2010, has really put a damper on his bottom line, but the couple works hard to continue Mark’s dream.
“The downtown walking traffic is not what it used to be,” said Mark. “I remember during the holidays, (downtown) had that New York feeling. There were buses and cars, there was music playing, but that’s all gone now.”
Along with the changing landscape comes changes in customer tastes.
“I still can’t figure out college kids,” he said. “But we put out our best product, and we listen to our customers and can take criticism.”
Mark said he’s constantly developing items to make his pizza menu unique, with toppings like mac and cheese, peach cobbler, pulled pork and even hot dogs. He also offers eight different kinds of homemade soup that change daily.
“We try to keep it interesting,” he said.
Mark said he isn’t sure whether Wilkes-Barre can ever go back to what it once was, but he still believes it’s a good place to do business. His knees are beginning to fail him, but he hopes to be in buisness for at least another few years before he officially retires.
“I like to come to work and work,” said Mark. “It doesn’t bother me. I know I still have a job tomorrow.”