Voters haven’t treated them too kindly of late, so veteran local politicians Mike Madsen and Nick Woerner are hoping pizza serves them better.
Madsen, 48, served eight years on the Kingston Common Council and a term in the Ulster County Legislature before losing a bid for re-election in 2011. Woerner, 28, was elected to two terms as Town of Ulster supervisor before being defeated in 2009. He also lost a bid for Kingston alderman in 2011.
The two have opened Primo Pizza at 342 Broadway in Kingston, across from Staples Street. Woerner, who does most of the talking (“I’m the funny guy, he’s the straight guy”), makes comparisons between serving pizza and serving the public. “There are a lot of similarities,” he said earnestly. “In politics, you’re selling yourself and your ideas. In business, you’re selling a product to the public.”
The enterprising duo, fellow Democrats and friends for a dozen years, were at loose ends after losing their respective elections in 2011, and so decided to go into “some kind of business” together. They looked at opportunities in the Uptown Kingston area, but finally decided on the food-service business in Midtown.
“I know I preached a lot as an alderman [from the Ninth Ward] about people investing in the City of Kingston,” Madsen said. “Here was a chance to put my money where my mouth is.”
They say they’ve invested about $20,000 in their new business, which opened its doors on Feb. 18. Neither draws a salary, nor plans to quit his day jobs just yet. Madsen, a contractor, does small construction and home-improvement jobs and manages his late father’s real-estate interests. Woerner, who worked in public relations after leaving town office, says he’s now a consultant to those seeking liquor licenses from the state.
The partners share shifts in a business that’s open some 90 hours a week from early morning to late at night. Woerner handles bookkeeping chores and Madsen works with personnel. Woerner feels his experience as chief executive officer of the Town of Ulster provides valuable background for the business. Though Madsen said he’s worked on and in the restaurant field since he was a teenager, he won’t be flipping pies at Primo Pizza.
They arrived at the parlor’s name, Primo Pizza, because, Woerner said, “Primo means number one in Italian and I’m related to the [Kingston] Primo family.”
The restaurant, which seats 32, was operated under the name of Old Napoli for many years and was the site of the original Stewart’s in Kingston. Madsen said minimal renovation was necessary.
While offering an extensive dinner, lunch and takeout menu, Primo’s best potential customers would seem to be the 2,000 students up the street at Kingston High School and workers from local businesses. The Broadway strip is sprinkled with eateries, so the new guys on the block had to come up with a catchy gimmick.
“How about a slice of pizza and a 12-ounce drink for $2 all day every day?” Woerner offered. “That’s a pretty good lunch for a kid.”
Woerner and Madsen say they’re more competitive by not charging sales tax or tips on their pizza deliveries. “I think that puts us in the mid-to-mid-lower price range,” Madsen said.
The parlor hopes to make a big splash this Sunday with a “St. Patrick’s pizza” (marking the annual parade down Broadway) that will feature belt-busting Russian dressing on top of sauerkraut and Swiss cheese and corned beef, all straddling a cheese bedding. Fried dough will be available for the kids.
They have different takes on their futures in politics.
“Ten years was enough for me. I’m done,” Madsen said.
Woerner, occasionally mentioned for a possible comeback in the Town of Ulster (he currently lives in Kingston), demurs. “I still have hopes of being involved in government someday,” he said. “When people ask me about running for office I usually tell them, Ask me tomorrow.”
The business can be reached at (845) 802-0000 or on Facebook at Primopizza/Kingston.