Primo Hoagies Come in four sizes: small, primo, whole and wrap. There are more than 30 different types of hoagies to choose from.

by Lou Mancinelli

With indicators suggesting the economy is pulling itself out of its near four-year slump, new businesses are poised to fill Chestnut Hill vacancies.

For example, Old Fashioned Style Primo Hoagies, the latest outlet in this regional chain (most are in Pennsylvania and New Jersey), just opened at 51 Bethlehem Pike, the former home of the Post Light, on Monday, Dec. 3. The owner is Mike Pieciuk.

The 20-seat shop will be decorated with a sports theme and include big-screen televisions to watch games. He’ll also offer curbside pickup. “I can’t see why any business owner wouldn’t look at that area and say this is a great spot,” said Pieciuk, 54, about the location, a storefront with a wide window he’ll utilize to enhance diners’ views.

As he walked into Kilian’s Hardware to purchase products he needed to make the final renovations, he said several people, including mothers with strollers and kids, have stopped him when they spotted his Primo’s shirt and asked when his store was opening. He said he has hired numerous employees, including students from Springside School, Chestnut Hill Academy and Chestnut Hill College.

Pieciuk, 54, a Conshohocken resident, graduated from Temple University in 1980 with a degree in business. He worked for Acme for 34 years, starting as a bagger and climbing his way up through the company ranks, working as a store manager, schematic analyst and operating manager of E-Business. But in recent years Acme suffered tough times due to economic conditions, and Pieciuk’s position was eliminated.

That gave him the opportunity to chase a vision that’s been circling in his head for years. “This kind of put me in a situation where I had to do it,” says Pieciuk. “I said if I’m gonna open a store this is what I want to do,” who signed a five-year lease with the option to renew for two additional five-year terms.

“I want to offer a business that has my personality wrapped into a great product,” says Pieciuk, who recently underwent a two-week training period to acquaint him with all aspects of the business. He said his philosophy is: “Happy stores translate into happy customers. And with my employees I try to never say no.”

Raised in Juniata Park in Northeast Philadelphia, Pieciuk graduated from Frankford High School in 1975. He lived in Philadelphia after graduating from Temple before moving to Mt. Laurel, N.J. in the late 1980s.

“You know, I wanted a lawn,” he said. Now divorced, he is the father of one biological daughter and two stepsons. During our interview, he was at his ex-wife’s house eating dinner with the children. They still spend holidays and vacations together. “It’s the right thing for the kids,” he said.

Primo Hoagies opened its first location at 1528 Ritner St. in South Philly in 1992 with the objective of establishing a family-operated corner deli that made a good hoagie. Since then it has expanded into various locations throughout the Delaware Valley, including Doylestown and Dresher, and as far as Maryland. Its sandwiches have won awards including the Channel 10 News Big Spoon Award, Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly and Courier-Post Readers Choice Best of South Jersey.

“The reason for expansion is demand for the product,” says Mike Aruanno, vice president of Primo’s. “Every one of the franchisees was a fan of the product first.” Ten new stores are in the process of being opened, which will bring to the total to 95.

For more information, call 215-815-7575.