Ponzio’s – Primed for another 50 years
This year marks 50 years for a Cherry Hill landmark and a name familiar to anyone who lives in South Jersey. Family-owned since 1964, Ponzio’s Diner-Bakery-Bar celebrates its half-century anniversary as a focal point for family, business and community – a home where traditions are made and stay.
For brothers Nick and John, cousin John and the entire Fifis family, there was no better way to mark this milestone than to honor the memory of Jim Fifis, the long-time owner of Ponzio’s. Prior to his death in 2007, Jim had asked his family to be advocates for lung cancer research and raise awareness about the dangers of smoking. So on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, more than 300 people gathered at Ponzio’s Diner-Bakery-Bar in Cherry Hill for the 50th anniversary celebration and the Annual Jim Fifis Lung Cancer Research dinner.
Family and friends were joined by George E. Norcross, III, Chairman of Cooper University Health Care, and Susan Bass Levin, President and CEO of The Cooper Foundation, at the benefit which raised a record $130,000 to support the Jim Fifis Lung Cancer Research Fund at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. Together, the 4-year relationship helps ensure patients have access to the best possible lung cancer care in South Jersey and the region.
“I am deeply appreciative of the contributions the Fifis family has made to Cooper and all of South Jersey over the past five decades,” said Norcross. “Together, through research and education, we can continue to ensure that patients have access to the best in lung cancer care in the region at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.”
“Cooper and Ponzio’s both have longstanding legacies in South Jersey,” said Levin. “We are happy to join with the Fifis family in celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ponzio’s and in honoring the memory of Jim Fifis by supporting research to advance lung cancer care and treatment.”
At the event, Nick Fifis shared thoughts of his father. “Our dad dedicated his life to Ponzio’s, and tonight’s celebration shows that even though he is no longer with us, his legacy lives on. He taught us about the importance of giving back to our community, and we are proud to honor him by partnering with The Cooper Foundation to raise money for lung cancer research.”
Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn along with Cherry Hill Council President David Fleisher also recognized the Fifis family and Ponzio’s with a proclamation honoring them for their efforts to fight lung cancer and contributions to the Cherry Hill community.
Five decades is a long time and the South Jersey restaurant scene has evolved dramatically – offering greater choices for diners and challenging businesses to balance tradition with fresh ideas. Over the years, each of Ponzio’s dining rooms has seen renovations with space suitable for smaller, more intimate get-togethers whether private or corporate affairs. Its Bar Room has gone from being a place to sit and have a quick drink before dinner to a gathering place on its own where friends and associates talk business, share laughs or watch "the big game."
Along with changes to the building, the menu has continued to evolve. Its wide-selection offers something for everyone – breakfast, lunch, dinner and any time in between. “We consistently analyze our items and introduce seasonal specials throughout the year,” Fifis explains. “This allows us to gauge customers likes and create a menu filled with great choices.”
Over the past 50 years, lifestyles have also changed dramatically. Sit down dining has often been replaced with grab-n-go, quick serve style options. Recognizing these trends, the Fifis family made significant strides to meet the needs of customers. Ponzio’s-To-Go is a convenient take-out counter offers the full menu, party trays and pickup catering, including Ponzio’s well known complete holiday dinners available for take out.
Ponzio’s longevity is a true testament of the family’s deep-rooted work ethic.
“We grew up understanding the importance of hard work,” Fifis explains. “We started as busboys and worked our way through the ranks working side by side with cooks, hosts and all staff many of whom are still here.” As one of the oldest eateries in Cherry Hill, Ponzio’s has not only served many residents of South Jersey, it has served the community as well, having employed more than 10,000 individuals over the years.
Says Fifis, “Many South Jersey residents have been frequenting Ponzio's for years, and the restaurant has done its best to grow along with those families. We remain a meeting place for old friends and family as well as business ‘power lunches’ where deals get done.”
So while change is important, there are certain things that must stay the same. For the Fifis family it is their commitment to excellent food served promptly in a warm family atmosphere. Rising costs and shrinking profit margins challenge any business but Fifis states emphatically, “What we will never cut is our quality, cleanliness and service.”
If asked how he’d like each customer to feel as they leave, Fifis puts it this way, "When they finish eating and are headed to the parking lot, I hope they feel the same way they do after a big family meal with loved ones – happy and satisfied, with a longing desire to come back soon!"
Written By Glori Gayster