For many of us, today’s headline “Manco & Manco owners facing tax charges” hit us like a ton of bricks, like hearing a loved one had cancer. If you never had the glorious swirly styled pizza, you were probably confused by seeing coverage of Matt and Mary Bangle, nee Manco, arrest for income tax evasion on the front page of the Inquirer and dominating your social media feeds as devotees freaked out.
Manco & Manco, formerly Mack & Manco, is more than just great pizza. It’s my childhood. My summer days were spent on the beach – you could find my family’s regular spot near 24th Street by finding the house with the large crab silhouette painted on it and then walking down to the high water line. Nights in Ocean City meant sitting on my dad’s shoulders for long walks down the boardwalk to ride the Tilt-a-whirl at Gillian’s and share a pie at Mack & Manco’s. If we were good, we might get some candy at Shriver’s, but the pizza was all I really cared about. A bite of that thin crust reminds me of brighter days, the days before cancer took granddad, before we sold the shore house to pay for grandmom’s medical bills.
So, yeah, this pizza is that important to me and countless others with similar stories of family, fun and food down the Shore.
Thankfully, fans of delicious sauce pumped incongruously through a pump onto fresh mozzarella and hand-tossed dough have little to fear. Even if the current owners end up in the slammer, Manco & Manco will endure.
Some beloved businesses fade away, slowly becoming unprofitable or transferring ownership to a child who doesn’t have the same knack for the family trade. Incompetent offspring can ruin a law firm, a department store, a mechanic’s shop, or a Lord Protectorship. A pizzeria isn’t one of them. A pizzeria is a fairly straightforward business to hand off to new management. It isn’t hard to tell a half-competent individual who to buy cheese and flour from, the recipe for a sauce and what to charge. I suspect that each location’s manager is fully equipped to keep this ship afloat.
Should the Bangles decide to sell, there shouldn’t be a shortage of buyers. From the indictment, it seems like the restaurants are doing quite well, grossing $4.5 million a year. That alone would be enough to pique interest, even before considering that this is a Jersey Shore institution.
Either way, the Bangles have no interest in shuttering the company. It’s worth vastly more as an ongoing venture than liquidated assets – again, that’s even before you consider the massive amount of goodwill it holds. Moreover, no prospective buyer would want to do anything to change the iconic pie, which is where the true value of the company lies. When Johnsonville bought Habbersett, Philly’s favorite scrapple didn’t change; there is no reason for the hypothetical new owners to mess up our beloved summertime snack.
So let’s all take a deep breath. Our favorite pizza isn’t going anywhere. This summer, we will all still be able to wait in a line backed up to the other side of the boardwalk just to buy a slice and a birch beer, and shake our heads quietly at those impatient fools who would go anywhere else. Whatever it’s called and whoever owns it, Mack & Manco is here to stay.
Jim Saksa is a YIP Board Member, Editor of this blog and corporate attorney. He spent dozens of summers eating Mack & Mancos, and spent 8 summers working at a bar in Seaside Heights that made a vastly inferior pizza.