By Alex Christodoulides
Nancy Poltorzycki had not wanted her husband to open a pizzeria, but his health had not been good and his idea was to leave something for their three children.
Less than three weeks after 47th Avenue Pizzeria opened, Mattias Poltorzycki had a stroke and his wife was forced to step in, and thanks to a chef she refers to as an angel, she and her children are making it work.
“I didn't want it. I'm in real estate; I didn't know anything” about running a restaurant, said Nancy, a real estate broker and Bayside resident.
The first two weeks after the Dec. 19, 2007, opening were really busy, said elder son Matt Poltorzycki, 17.
“We were doing $2,000, $3,000 a day” in business, he said.
Then Mattias had a stroke Jan. 5, just as the Flushing pizzeria's kinks were getting worked out and the new staff was learning what to do, his wife said.
“The phones didn't stop ringing. My husband had done these 'buy one, get one free' coupons, but all the money was going to supplies and salaries,” she said.
After cash flow trouble and suspicions about some of the staff, they had to let people go. They went from a staff of 13 to two, Matt said. Instead of the pizzeria being a side business to her real estate job, Nancy found herself and Matt behind the counter.
“This isn't helping my business, but the market's dead,” she said.
Because Mattias is an Army veteran, after his initial hospitalization the government moved him to a nursing facility in Franklin Center and picked up the tab, Nancy said.
“He comes in sometimes — he's in a wheelchair — but it's different,” she said.
In the stressful period after her husband's stroke, she missed a payment on the restaurant's Con Edison bill, she said. To continue the service would require a $2,000 deposit she could not afford. In tears, she called her bank, which arranged an installment plan with Con Ed to keep the pizzeria afloat.
But it meant letting the pizza chef go.
Nancy turned to online bulletin board Craigslist.org seeking someone to come in twice a week to help with preparation. Chef Armand Vanderstigchel responded.
The first thing Vanderstigchel did was look at the pizzeria's menu and streamlined it to reduce costs.
Then he taught Nancy and Matt to make sauces, pizza dough and everything on the menu. Nancy calls him an angel.
Slowly, between Vanderstigchel, her, the children and help from the community, they are getting things off the ground.
The delivery man from the Chinese restaurant next door ferries orders when he can, and some of their customers come in to help every day.
“We have good people giving sympathy and support,” Nancy said.