Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Nashville Pizzeria Re-Opens 4 Months After Slayings

bellacinos Monday 21st Jan 08 marked new beginning for a West Nashville business marked by tragedy last year. After a double shooting, Bellacino's is back in business.

It was a bittersweet moment for the owner. Store owner Chris Thompson said the last several months have been one of the most difficult times of his life.

Since the shooting deaths of two of his employees last fall, there were plenty of times he thought about closing the store for good, but after seeing the outpour of support from the community he realized he had to re-open.

"Our initial reaction was we didn't even want to come back here," said Thompson.

Thompson not only lost two employees on the night of October 26, he lost two friends. Chris Caris, age 33, and Joshua Cole, age 18, were killed execution style.

Police said former employee Jason Bobo pulled the trigger.
Josh Owens was one of the first customers to place an order at Bellacino's since it closed it's doors almost four months ago.

"We understand why they had to take the time to remodel, for everybody to try and regroup," said Owens.

Several changes have taken place since Bellacino's doors first closed. The dining and kitchen areas have been remodeled, and a memorial has been posted in the waiting area, made to honor Caris and Cole.

The White Bridge Bellacino's will no longer accept cash as payment. Thompson adopted the policy to better protect his customers and employees.

chris thompson"Most people haven't been through what we've been through, now that we have been there have to take extreme measures to just help keep it from happening again," said Thompson.

Customers can only pay with check, debit or credit card. Despite these precautions, no plan is full proof.

"People walk in our doors every single day across the country and cannot guarantee some person isn't going to do something crazy," said Jason Pesola from Bellacino's corporate office.

For now Bellacino's will take one day at a time, hoping customers will enjoy their new look. It's a much different scene from the candles, notes and pictures that covered the store this past fall.

"This was a gathering place for people to show their emotions and show their support," said Thompson.

Now as customers wait for their order they'll be able to read a special memorial - a framed note from a customer that reads, "The Lord is now being served... pizza."

"It's subtle and at the same time makes a very big statement,"

A simple message telling what Chris and Josh were doing at the time of their death and what they might be doing now.

Another reason Chris Thompson re-opened the store was because of the support he got from his employees.

Half of his current employees worked at the store when the shootings took place. While NewsChannel 5 was at the store three people filled out applications.

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