New owners at Bennington Pizza House keeping tradition alive

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BENNINGTON — The new owners of the Bennington Pizza House aim to keep a long legacy going on Main Street.

Ryan and Heather Hassett bought the pizzeria at 430 Main St. late last month from owner Melpomeni "Melpo" Papaioannou . The Hassetts own Bringing You Vermont, which is directly next store at 434 Main St.

"Keeping it a family business was a huge thing for them and for us," Ryan Hassett said Monday.

The pizza house's name will stay the same. So will the time-tested recipes.

"We want to keep everything the way it is, to keep the legacy going," Hassett said.

Hassett said that Papaioannou, who with her late husband, Arthur, founded numerous pizza houses in New York and New England, "was looking for the right person to buy the business."

June will mark the 50th anniversary of the Papaioannou's first set up shop in Bennington.

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Arthur and Melpo Papaioannou opened the Main Street pizza house in 1981. Their first location in Bennington, in the Monument Plaza on Northside Drive, opened in 1968, a year after they came to America from Greece. Arthur Papaioannou died in 2004.

Hassett said Melpo Papaioannou "was looking for the right person to buy the business."

"We said, well with similarities between our families, maybe we'd be a good match," he said.

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Melpo Papaioannou will stay on and help the Hassett's during the transition; she intends to return to Greece, Hassett said.

The pizza house building at 430 Main St. was sold to Compass Points Properties, LLC on March 30 for $180,000, according to property transfer records.

Dough, dressings, sauces are all made on site. Hassett said he's learning how to make it all.

"We're trying really hard to keep to original recipes so we can keep that legacy going," he said.

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A lot of them still involve eyeballing kitchen measurements.

"There are no measuring cups in this building," he said.

Hassett said he plans to redecorate two walls inside the restaurant: One depicting photos of old downtown Bennington, and another with photos of the Papaioannou family and his own family.

Stop into either the pizza house or Bringing You Vermont and it's likely you'll see a Hassett. Ryan and Heather Hassett, along with their four children, are all pitching in.

Their son Christian works at the pizza house full time. Oldest son Jaime, who studied astronautical engineering and lives in Maryland, is helping with the tech side of things like the point of sale system. Katie graduates Russell Sage this spring and plans to work there a year before heading to graduate school. Youngest daughter Bethany graduates high school this spring and will work at both businesses.

"I wouldn't do it if I didn't have my family," Hassett said.

Ed Damon can be reached at edamon@benningtonbanner.com, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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