By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK— A walk through the front door at 116 W. Seventh St. in Newkirk is a virtual time capsule, a step back to a bygone era of Newkirk’s history. Cleared is the dust and clutter that once filled the interior, replaced with a new and welcoming atmosphere. Historic photos of the community line the walls, and vintage tables and chairs greet new patrons at Capone’s Hoagies, a new sandwich shop opened by Bob and Faith Capone, offering a new food choice in the community, with a classic vintage feel and welcome feeling for everyone in the Newkirk.
The facility had a soft opening Tuesday morning, March 17 and the excitement was more than they expected.
“We had every table full, and a line from the counter, out the door,” Bob Capone said. “It was very chaotic and hectic, but it felt really good to see the response of the community.”
The opening is the next step in a dream that spanned several years. The Capones hail from Williamsport, Penn. and made Newkirk their home in 2018. When they came to visit family, they found a welcoming community, but it was lacking a sandwich shop, something that is much more common in towns in the East, including Pennsylvania. It was also an opportunity to bring more life to Newkirk by opening a business Downtown.
“The Downtown area needs a breath of fresh air, because a lot of the buildings in the Downtown area are owned by people who don’t live here, and they don’t want to put money back in Newkirk. We saw a chance to see Newkirk revitalized,” Bob said. “It’s not that we want to compete with the other restaurants, we just wanted give everyone some options.”
A sandwich shop seemed like a good choice, as the only sandwich shops in the area are chain stores, like Subway. It was time to bring a local shop home to Newkirk.
“This part of Oklahoma doesn’t have something like this,” he said. If you wanted a sandwich, most of the places you can go is Subway, and Subway is a franchise. To them, you’re just a customer. When you come here, we want to treat you like family.”
The Capones began a quest for a building, eventually settling on the location, as it had previously been a restaurant, Newkirk Country Café, and wouldn’t need too many renovations to accommodate the venture.
When they stepped into the facility, in August 2019, they saw a building that would need a lot of work.
“We saw a very neglected building that needed some love,” Faith said. “The ceiling tiles were falling down, there was a layer of dust on everything.”
The Capones began work in November 2019, bringing in Donnie Groff to help with the work. Faith worked with Newkirk Main Street and Oklahoma Main Street to find a fitting theme, using the Roaring Twenties, combined with an Italian Mafia feel, as a fitting look, taking advantage of Bob’s traditional Italian heritage.
That historic theme blends in well with the facility. They kept the traditional ceiling fans inside, refurbishing them with old-style light bulbs to keep a real vintage feel. Historic Newkirk photos display a variety of buildings and residents from years past.
“The pictures we show are historic Newkirk. You’re seeing a bustling community at the prime of its life,” Bob said.
Even a cutout of infamous mobster Al Capone greets patrons when they enter the door although Bob and Faith stress, they are not related to the Chicago boss.
All the walls have a new coat of paint, the windows have been wiped clean adorned with Newkirk artifacts, and a new vinyl flooring completes the look. Larger ADA compliant bathrooms have been installed.
Even the names of the sandwiches reflect the same theme, such as The Godfather, The Flapper and The Gangster.
There are some changes from other hoagie shops, however, as no oil will be drizzled on the top. Spinach is substituted for lettuce and mayonnaise is the primary condiment, although patrons my order other condiments.
All sandwiches will be offered either whole or half, with most also offered as a salad or wrap.
The Capones noted that some menu changes may occur, such as adding pizza or soup, depending on customer interest.
They would also like to add new activities in the coming months to increase community involvement.
“We are going to bring in some arcade games, and once we get established and running normal, I want to open for (things like) game night,” Bob said.
Capone’s Hoagies hours are 11 a.m. – 7p.m. Tuesday – Saturday, and those hours were chosen to offer community residents to be out later in the evening, as well as facilitate some of these game nights.
“When we visited here, everybody was closing at 5 p.m. That’s why we’re open until 7,” Bob said. “The games we plan on doing are on the nights we’re closed for business.
For the zeal Bob and Faith have for the shop, it is the customer response that determines the success of the shop, and that response is overwhelmingly positive.
“I think the bread was wonderful. I love the atmosphere, cleanliness, friendly staff, and I can’t wait to eat here again,” Serena Welch said.
Some are already repeat customers.
“I like it, they’ve been open since Tuesday, (March 17) and I’ve already bought my seventh sandwich,” Scott Dutton said.
A locked door next to Capone’s Hoagies reveals a steep flight of stairs leading upward. The inside of the upstairs room is a surreal experience, the door opening to what was once someone’s humble abode. That was decades ago, however, as everything is frozen in time. Dust particles float in the air when disturbed, and even the electrical system harkens back to a time gone by.
The plan is to bring new life to it and make a humble abode once again for somebody new.
“We’re going to turn it into a one bedroom apartment. It’s going to have a separate bedroom, but the living room and kitchen are going to be open,” Bob said, adding that they will keep the original look of the front. “We will be tearing the façade down so it can be refurbished, but the façade will go back up.”
The Capones are only looking forward with Capone’s Hoagies, and more than the restaurant itself, are proud of the community support from their new home, and are thrilled to give that love and support back to Downtown Newkirk.,
“I can’t thank everyone enough for the turnout, the warm welcome Newkirk has shown us,” he said. “This is a breath of fresh air for us.”