In the years since he retired from the Hoboken Fire Department, Felix Santiago has noticed what he considers to be a troubling trend with younger generations in Hudson County.
“The only way they communicate is through the internet, tweets, Facebook, Instagram, and stuff of that nature,” he explained. “They don’t talk with each other and they don’t eat with each other. There’s a lot of things that they don’t do that we used to do when we were kids.”
Santiago, a cancer survivor who recently had both a knee replacement and open heart surgery, was especially concerned when he began seeing families using electronic devices instead of speaking with one another at local restaurants.
”People come in, they sit down, they eat. Next thing you know they’re all pulling out their telephones,” Santiago stated. “I think I can change that.”
Inspired by the family-oriented nature of son-in-law Ralph Gallo’s business, Hot House Pizza in Hoboken, he decided to launch a restaurant of his own. After months of planning, construction is underway for Firehouse Blazing Pizza, a firefighting-themed pizzeria that will open in the spring in Jersey City. Located at 488 Central Avenue in The Heights, the restaurant is being designed to be so visually appealing with such delicious food that customers will not even be tempted to look at their phones.
When completed, the business will look like a firehouse, with a red roll-up door, indoor and outdoor seating, brick walls, yellow floor markings, and firefighter-themed artwork from Jersey City’s Paws21 Art. There will also be older photos and vintage newspaper articles to highlight the history of firefighting in the region, along with other fire department-themed items. The official menu is still being crafted, but it is expected that in addition to pizza, sandwiches, salads, cheese fries, and pasta will be served.
As his son Felix continues to lead construction and design efforts inside, Santiago is looking forward to opening day.
”What I’m trying to do is to keep it family oriented and sell the best pizza I can sell,” he said. “Hopefully, the residents around the area will appreciate it.”