First Posted: 5/10/2013
Francesco Stuppino and Maureen Noone had been open less than two years at Cuz’s Susquehanna Avenue Bar & Grille in Exeter when their Pittsburgh Steelers-themed business was destroyed by fire on April 30, 2012.
On Thursday — talking in the gleaming new Steelers bar they opened next door to the fire site — Stuppino talked about how he felt after the fire, “I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know if I wanted to reopen. Then I got these letters,” he said pointing at one wall of the bar where framed, hand-written letters from Steelers owner Art Rooney and former linebacker legend Jack Lambert are displayed.
The Lambert letter reads, “Heard you had some bad luck. Pick yourself up and get back in the fight.”
Rooney and Lambert learned about the fire from a story that was picked up by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Their letters put Stuppino in action. “I figured if I reached so many people’s lives with a tiny bar, I must be doing something right.”
Though among the memorabilia lost in the fire were autographed photos and jerseys of former Steelers Jerome Bettis, Jack Ham, “Mean” Joe Greene and Rod Woodson; Western PA native, Joe Montana; and the late Pittsburgh Pirates star Roberto Clemente, Stuppino, with the help of the Steelers largest fan club the Steel City Mafia, has rebuilt his memorabilia collection.
Among the displays are three seats from the Steelers old home, Three Rivers Stadium; one of 53 lockers from the vistors’ locker room with game-worn jerseys hanging inside; one of six commemorative Super Bowl helmets signed by Ben Roethlisberger; a Heinz Ward autographed jersey and that’s just the tip of a black and gold iceberg.
Most of the art, including the Steeler swirl motif on the outside wall and the Pittsburgh skylines on inside the rest rooms were created by Pittston artist Bob “Stretch” Lewis.
The architect on the project was Lynn Kesselman. Donnie Pagnato and Jim White did most of the construction work, including building a bar from scratch. The job took seven months.
Stuppino and Noone had a quiet opening last week. Two grand opening weekends are scheduled for May 17, 18 and 19 and 24, 25, 26 with retired Steelers coming in to meet customers and sign
On the 17th retired Steelers Chris Hoke and Ronin Cole will be at Cuz’s. Yancey Thigpen and J.T. Thomas will be there on the 18th and Jason Gildon on the 19th.
On the 24th Frenchy Fuqua, the self-proclaimed “French Count” — who was the intended receiver on the legendary Immaculate Reception play in the 1972 AFC playoff game — will be at Cuz’s. Fuqua was a flashy dresser as a player who wore mini-aquariums with colorful live fish in high-heeled shoes to match his outfits.
Greg LLoyd, Andy Russell and Louie Lipps are scheduled for the 25th and Dwayne Woodruff for the 26th.
Stuppino said a food vendor who travels nationwide told him Cuz’s is a top Steelers-decorated bar in the country.
Cuz’, which can seat 90, has a main bar with six taps and a side bar called Cuz’s Corner. He is serving food, pizza, burgers and wings for starters, and has Steeler-motif menus on order.
Stuppino and Noone have opened bars in the past, but always in established places. “This is the first time I we ever had anything new,” he said.