Mark's Pizzeria

Tom Harvard and Joe Keller, co-owners of Mark's Pizzeria in Auburn, stand outside the shop's new location on Arterial West.

Greg Mason, The Citizen

AUBURN | After 13 years of serving on the corner of Genesee Street, Mark's Pizzeria is taking its talents to the Arterial.

The owners of the pizza shop decided to relocate the business to 59 Arterial W., in the vacant building next to Maxwell's Food Store. The building is being completely gutted and renovated to suit the shop's needs.

The anticipated opening date is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 17. The store on Genesee Street will be closing at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, to complete the transition.

Co-owners Joe Keller and Tom Harvard both felt the current Mark's location was too small to fit the needs of their patrons. There's limited parking and no seating, primarily servicing deliveries and pickups only.

The time had come, Keller said, for "something to be done" to the Genesee Street location, whether it was a complete remodel or, the chosen option, relocating to a newer, better facility.

Last year saw the release of Mark's expanded menu, with choices including pasta, different pizza styles and more salads, and the Auburn location is riding the wave toward change at this current juncture.

"We kind of outgrew our spot down there," Keller said. "With the increase in the menu, we really saw a need for more space."

The two began the search for a new location in April and closed the deal in June. The location Mark's is moving into has been vacant for a few years, but most recently housed Parisi's Bistro (PB5) until it closed.

Crews have remodeled, or are remodeling, the building's electrical system, plumbing, bathrooms, siding, windows — everything but the roots, giving the location its own identity.

The new location will offer seating for about 50 people and televisions, combined with a general increase in parking and space. For the tech-friendly or multitaskers, the pizzeria will offer free Wi-Fi.

All of this will combine for a more comfortable feel to Mark's to encourage customers to sit down and have a slice to eat, Keller said.

The owners have added on a handful of new employees to help out with the newer, larger location. But other than those changes, a lot of Mark's is staying the same — the phone number, delivery range and products will remain as they are, just operating under a new roof.

Sixteen of the 49 Mark's Pizzeria locations, all based in New York, have undergone similar changes in the past two years, and Keller said they have heard positive feedback from the transitions.

"Our whole franchise is expanding," Keller said. "A lot of our stores are becoming a come-in, sit-down kind of deal. That kind of response made us continue to go that way."

With the move, however, Mark's is moving away from Genesee Street, where a majority of Auburn's grand downtown revival is happening. Even further, the pizzeria is moving onto the Arterial, where the street's one-way traffic requires a turnaround toward Seymour Street.

But the owners indicated they were not intimidated by the prospect of the Arterial. In fact, Keller said they feel the Arterial will give Mark's increased exposure that can be only good for business.

Plus, the pizzeria's customers know how to manage the one-way traffic, as a lot of Auburn is one-way, Keller said.

"Basically, if you're from Auburn, you know how to drive in Auburn," he said.

Staff writer Greg Mason can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or greg.mason@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenMason.

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