Tonawanda News

NT

January 28, 2012

Pizza joint feud ends in arrest

A former manager of Pizza Junction was arrested Friday after he smashed his vehicle through a sign situated in front of Vito’s Avenue Pizzeria, in a dispute over its wording.

Ryan Fleckenstein, whose parent’s closed Pizza Junction earlier this month and announced last week they are selling it to an out-of-state buyer, was charged by North Tonawanda police with criminal mischief and several vehicle traffic offenses shortly after the afternoon incident on Zimmerman Avenue.

Peter Wozniak, who owns Vito’s, said that Fleckenstein’s mother, Sherry, called him about 1:30 p.m. Friday and demanded that the wording on the sign be changed “in 20 minutes” due to its apparent reference to the Pizza Junction as well as a former employee of the restaurant, Russ Clark, who was hired by Wozniak “more than two months ago.”

The sign said, “Welcome Russ Clark, now serving original junction pizza,” according to Wozniak, who also said it had been posted near the sidewalk in front of the restaurant for three weeks.

Wozniak said he declined Sherry Fleckenstein’s request, then called his lawyer, who advised him that from a legal perspective the wording would not need to be removed.

In a bizarre twist, Ryan Fleckenstein then showed up at Vito’s roughly 30 minutes later, parked his black Jeep on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant and again demanded it be removed.

“He said, ‘I want the sign down now,” Wozniak said of Fleckenstein.

Wozniak said he dismissed the demand, then went back inside his establishment.

Then according to two teenagers who happened to be standing near the 4-by-8-foot mobile sign situated in front of the restaurant, Wozniak said, Fleckenstein warned them to move and quickly drove his vehicle through it, almost striking the boy and girl as well as the business next door, Lent Builders.

Fleckenstein then allegedly fled the scene, heading north on Zimmerman Street and police were called.

Richard Lent, who owns Lent Builders and has been located next to Vito’s for the last year, said he saw Fleckenstein taking pictures of the sign through the glass door of his business. He described then hearing a “loud a bang,” and ran outside to see Fleckenstein pulling away.

“I thought he ran into the building,” Lent said of Fleckenstein. “The two kids were going crazy. The boy was just happy his girlfriend didn’t get hit.”

The frame of the sign was pushed in front of Lent’s business and scattered pieces of lettering, glass and plastic were strewn across the sidewalk and two parking spots. Lent showed a large scratch left on a gray van owned by his mother, who was also inside the premises when the incident occurred, as well as what appeared to be a black smudge streaked across the window of Lent’s building.

Tire marks were still in place near the sidewalk in front of Vito’s a short while later and indentations were etched into the concrete in what looked to be evidence of the sign being dragged by Fleckenstein’s vehicle after impact.

Lent said when the incident occurred, his wife was sitting at a desk just in front of the window with the shades drawn.

“She could have been killed if it came through the window,” he said. “I saw pieces of everything fly past through the door.”

Lent said he also has video surveillance posted on the front of the building that he will turn over to police and Wozniak.

Police Chief Randy Szukala confirmed that the incident was over the wording on the sign.

“He didn’t like it for some reason and that was the way he chose to take the wording off the sign... by driving his vehicle over it.” he said.

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