Two longtime friends who've worked throughout their lives for a northeast Ohio pizza staple will bring the first Gionino's Pizzeria to Pickerington in November.

Corrections: The print and earlier version of this story contained the following errors: The store will offer delivery and carryout, not dine-in service. However, Gionino’s will provide food service to their patrons next door at Classic Sports Bar. Gionino’s does not offer deep-dish pizza. The signature crust is not quite deep dish but definitely not thin, said Larry Halpin who is co-owner with Dan Shackelford. The Pickerington store is the 46th in the franchise. There are no stores in Kentucky.

Two longtime friends who've worked throughout their lives for a northeast Ohio pizza staple will bring the first Gionino's Pizzeria to Pickerington in November.

Larry Halpin, 27, and Dan Shackelford, 28, have been friends since kindergarten in Cuyahoga Falls.

Over the years, they shared many a dinner at Gionino’s Pizzerias, and they both took jobs at the company’s Munroe Falls store as teenagers.

“We worked all through high school,” Halpin said. “(Shackelford) stayed there through college, I left for the military.

“I did the military then college. He did college, then the military. Then, we both loved Gionino’s so much, we decided this is what we wanted to do. We both saw a future in it.”

With a target date of Nov. 5, Halpin and Shackelford, as co-owners, plan to open Gionino’s Pizzeria Pickerington at 12983 Stonecreek Drive.

They’ll operate the delivery and carryout shop seven days a week – 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Additionally, they’ll provide their food – which includes handmade, fresh-crust pizza and Italiano fried chicken – to patrons next door at Classics Sports Bar, 12981 Stonecreek Drive.

“We came down here just to look at the shop, and we really liked Pickerington as a city,” Shackelford said.

Although new to the Columbus market, Gionino’s has been serving pizza, Italiano fried chicken, subs, pasta and more for more than 28 years.

There are 45 franchises, with most being in northeast Ohio.

A Dayton store also is expected to open in the near future.

Halpin said the business partners’ experiences working at Gionino’s, in addition to their love of its food, led them to the Pickerington venture after both had set on different career paths.

Shackelford got a degree in social studies education from Kent State before serving active duty as a C-130 aircraft engine mechanic for the U.S. Air Force. He is in the Air Force Reserves.

Halpin got a degree in political science, with a minor in history, from Penn State , before serving as a cavalry scout for the U.S. Army.

“We both wanted to move back to Ohio,” Shackelford said. “We also just loved the pizza, and we knew it’d be a great career.”

To get a fresh start, the two nearly gutted the 1,600-square-foot space which formerly was Classics Pizza.

“We’re going to be completely different from them,” Halpin said. “We ripped everything they had out, cleaned everything, painted everything, put our own logos up.

“We’re bringing in all brand-new stuff. It’s going to be nice and shiny and pretty, and everything is going to be clean.”

In addition to new equipment, the duo said they’ll offer a fresh-dough pizza crust.

Their signature crust is not quite deep dish, and Halpin said it’s definitely not thin crust.

Their full menu will be available through the company website at www.gioninos.com/.

“None of the other pizza shops we’ve seen around here do fried chicken,” Halpin said. “It’s big in northeast Ohio.

“It’s that Italiano blend. We marinate it for at least 24 hours and then we deep fry it.”

Halpin said fresh ingredients separate Gionino’s from other restaurants.

“We’re not going to have a microwave in here,” he said. “Everything we do is fresh.

“We make our dough every day; it cures for 24 hours. We chop our own vegetables. It’s thicker than the standard pizza down here.”

Gionino’s will employee 13-15 at the outset, but that is expected to grow to 20.

Halpin and Shackelford said they intend to make Pickerington a permanent home, and they’ll be hands-on owners with plans to incorporate special activities for local events like next year’s Pickerington High School Central-Pickerington High School North football game.

“This isn’t just an investment for us,” Halpin said. “We’re going to be here pretty much every hour of the day while we’re open.

“We’re different, we’re good. Give us a chance.”

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