Johnstown native Artrell Hawkins had never eaten a Primanti Bros. sandwich, but that changed Tuesday evening as the former NFL player joined others at a pre-opening party for the restaurant’s new Galleria Drive location.
“Primanti Bros. is sports oriented,” Hawkins said. “And if you look at the Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh and how it’s attached to football – I thought it be nice to come up and support it.
“I played sports here and it’s a way of giving back.”
Tuesday’s pre-opening party gave locals a chance to visit the new location and sample some of the eatery’s signature sandwiches, pizza, wings and more. The event also served as a fundraiser for The Learning Lamp, a local organization that serves thousands of children each year, working with families and schools to meet the needs of students.
“Tonight we’ve invited the local community to raise money as a way to start kicking-off our opening tomorrow morning,” said Adam Golomb, Primanti Bros. chief marketing officer. “In the last couple of years we’ve had a ground swell of people asking us to come to Johnstown, and we were lucky enough to find a location that worked for us.
“We’re really excited to come to Johnstown with our restaurant,” he said. “The closest one is Altoona and Greensburg, so to bring this to the community I think is going to be really exciting.”
Patrons filled the new restaurant from wall to wall throughout the two-hour event, as the aroma of freshly made “Almost Famous” sandwiches helped to add to an already inviting atmosphere.
Cambria County Commissioner Tom Chernisky and CTC president and CEO Edward Sheehan Jr. were among the crowd of attendees.
“This is a great day for Cambria County, Richland Township and the entire Johnstown area,” Chernisky said. “Primanti Bros., here in Cambria County, we have the same DNA – we root for the Steelers, we root for the Penguins, we root for the Pirates.
“It’s the same DNA and this is a good thing,” he said. “Primanti Bros. is a destination point, so look for more good things to come.”
Sheehan said “I’ve gone to Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh at Market Square and it’s always a great experience. I’m just delighted that they’re here in our community. Most of our employees go out for lunch, so this is another place they’ll be able to go to lunch and also obviously dinner.”
While the beverages flowed and the wait staff continued to go back and forth from the kitchen area, each time coming out with a fresh item off the menu, those in attendance were encouraged to make a monetary donation to The Learning Lamp, something both organizations took pride in.
“First, I want to say how excited that I am that Johnstown has a Primanti Bros. What a huge deal that is for us,” said The Learning Lamp CEO Leah Spangler. “The icing on the cake for me is that Primanti Bros. chose to support The Learning Lamp with their generous gift. I believe they’re matching up to $1,000 this evening, so we’ll take that money and we will invest right back into the community with free after-school programs for children, free meals for children and also assistance with very important things like homework help, childcare and summer programs.”
The new Richland Township location is set to open Wednesday at noon for the general public. The opening will be highlighted with an opening celebration tailgate beginning at 5 a.m. Those who wait in line will get free food samples and have an opportunity to participate in parking lot games and activities while listening to the sounds of a live Disc Jockey.
Aside from bragging rights, the first 100 people to enter the restaurant will also receive free sandwiches for one year.
“We call it the First 100 Club,” Golomb said. “The first hundred fans will get free sandwiches for a year. So the party starts at 5 a.m. – cornhole, a DJ, music, tailgating, food – it’s going to be a good time.”
Doors will open to the first 100 customers at 10:30 a.m.
“We’ve looked for the right location in the Johnstown area for a long time and we’re happy to be here,” said Primanti Bros. CEO David Head, who was also in attendance on Tuesday. “We’re honored to be a part of the community.
“This is just a great place and so much like Pittsburgh,” he said. “So we’re happy to be here in Johnstown and supporting the Richland and Cambria County areas.”