The owners of Pizza Empire were recognized Monday, Jan. 29, by Comptroller Peter Franchot for their business’s “delicious contributions” to the community since it opened in 2010.
Owners Ercument Arslan, Kamil Kuru and Cagla Kuru Erdogan own two locations, in Henderson and downtown Denton. A cousin owns a third location in Federalsburg.
Franchot visited their Denton location to present a proclamation and give them each one of the medallions he gives to Marylanders who make a difference.
“I’m recognizing the wonderful small businesses in Maryland, each of them a thread in the state’s economy,” Franchot said. “I appreciate the jobs you provide, the wages you pay and your customer service.”
Arslan thanked Franchot for the recognition, and thanked Harry Wyre and Denton Town Manager Don Mulrine for their help in 2016 moving the Denton restaurant from its first location, on state Route 404 just west of the town, to its new home in a historic building on Market Street.
“We are very happy to be here,” said Arslan, who in 2013 was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce. “Thank you.”
Denton Mayor Abby McNinch said the town is grateful for the restaurant’s contributions.
“It’s really a quality product,” McNinch said. “This is a phenomenal example of how a business should be established.”
Several elected officials who work or live in Denton vouched for the food.
“My office is right up the street,” said Caroline County Commission President Larry Porter. “It’s just a quick walk down here.”
Del. Jeff Ghrist, R-36, said the restaurant has been his daughter’s favorite since it opened in its first location.
“I’m glad to see you’ve moved on to a bigger and better place,” Ghrist said.
Pizza Empire had to leave its first location due to the dualization of Route 404. Wyre, who owns Harry’s on the Green in Denton, said the owners were thinking about leaving the town altogether until Mulrine convinced them to instead move to the Market Street building that had housed a hardware store until just recently.
Wyre said he handled the design management of the building’s conversion from the hardware store to the restaurant.
The historic building was built in the late 1890s, Wyre said, as a state-of-the-art silent theater. It operated as such for 30 years until a new theater, with sound, opened around the corner.
The building became a hardware store in the 1930s, Wyre said, until Denton Hardware closed in 2016.
When the building was refitted for the restaurant, Wyre said, a drop ceiling was removed, revealing the original tin ceiling, which was nearly completely intact. The hardwood floor was probably installed after the theater was closed, when a slanted floor was replaced with a level one.