Dominick S. “Smitty” Brunetti didn’t open his pizza shop thinking that someday he’d be a local legend in this region, but that’s exactly what happened.
He was the youngest of nine children and by the age of 8, he was already out the door hauling hay for 25¢ a day. By 11yrs young, he worked at a barber shop shining shoes for a dime a shine. With that and influence from his brother, Joe, who graduated barber college in Detroit, Smitty had already decided by the age of 12, he wanted to become a barber.
So he studied under his brother for four years and at the age of 16 applied for his state Barber’s License becoming the youngest barber in the state of West Virginia. At that time, a cut cost 25¢ and a shave was 15¢. He owned and operated Smitty’s Barber Shop for 40 years, raising five children with Rose Angela, his first wife.
“It is one of those rare small business success stories; one made possible by a man’s love for his family, and his community.”
–Kevin S. Courtney—1995
When she passed, he continued to work hard to see his children through college.
Smitty’s Barber Business began to suffer hard times in the 60s, when men started wearing long hair. His regulars were only coming in every 2-3 months compared to every 2-3 weeks.
So Smitty decided he needed something else. His sights became on a new business that would be inspired by his childhood. His brother had a confectionary when he was a kid and his mother baked goods like pizzas, pepperoni rolls and frittis.
Years earlier Smitty did own a small restaurant across from the barber shop so he’s always had that struggle to get into that kind of business. So when an old frame building which once housed a grocery store went up for sale, Smitty saw his opportunity.
The owner, Wesley Stull, was asking $8,000 originally. Unable to find a buyer, Wesley came down to $5,000. According to Smitty, a couple years later, Wesley came in for a haircut and Smitty offered him $3,000 for the building and Wesley accepted.
Located at 1639 Hamill Ave., the same intersection as was his barber shop. A Brunetti has occupied at one time or another each of the buildings on the four corners of the intersection.
Smitty took out a loan and by purchasing a used four burner stove and other kitchen essentials he was able to realize a dream. In July 1970 Smitty’s Pizza opened its doors.
“You’ve got to have sauce in your veins to be in this business”
Experience and Influence
The Pizza Shop has since become a favorite among area residents, who crave it’s homemade pizzas, sauces, dressings, sausages and other specialties. According to Dominick Brunetti, an addition was constructed to serve as a storage room. The upstairs was expanded and a preparatory kitchen and walk in freezer were added. Smitty owned and operated the business for 20 years. His second wife, Goldie, had a large hand in making things run smoothly for more than 10 years. Smitty also gave credit to his children for helping so much. When Smitty decided to retire, he turned the shop over to his son and daughter-in-law Dominick “Duke” and Barbara Brunetti. He took the opportunity to see the country with Goldie. However, Goldie fell ill during that time becoming unable to travel. It was a difficult time for Smitty. He found himself restless and decided he needed to work again. On December 5th, 1994, at the age of 76, he began cutting hair again across the street from the family pizza business.
Smitty Brunetti still stands at the forefront of cooking innovations for Smitty’s Pizza through recipes, ingredients, preparations and menu selections. As a mess sergeant in the US Army, having to prepare the menus and the food for the enlisted men, he let his experience and his personal research along with the influence of his mother and brother bring Smitty’s Pizza to the success story it is today. For example, the famous Veggie Pizza on the menu was dictated by his struggle to get healthy after a heart attack.
Atmosphere and Quality
His son, Dominick “Duke” Brunetti and his wife, Barbara, have kept all the traditional recipes because of their popularity. Barbara believes the atmosphere has a good deal to do with Smitty’s success while Dominick credits quality foods. See the menu for the traditional foods Smitty’s Pizza serves.