BHS Twins: Where are They Now? Joe and Jon Pinti, Class of 1981

By Julie Perine on August 23, 2015 via

Identical twins and members of the 1981 graduating class of Bridgeport High School, Joe and Jon Pinti are both Bridgeport residents and local business owners. 
Jon owns and operates A&V Construction, doing home restoration and specializing in flooring and kitchen and bath remodels. Joe is owner of Mountaineer World, Mountaineer Grille and Benny's Boot Hill.
It is the latter business - owned many years by their dad Benny Pinti - where the seed was planted for family business ownership. 
"Everybody in the family worked there at one time or another," Joe said about he, his twin brother and their five siblings Kevin, Jackie, Vincent, Benji and Pam . "I remember working at the store when it was at Terrace Plaza by Hills and Grants. I used to help Dad repair shoes, do preparation and stuff." 
Jon thinks he was probably 10 or 11 when he started working with his dad Benny at the Terrace Plaza store. That venture followed Benny Pinti's original shop on Main Street which was strictly shoe repair. The store on Bridgeport Hill was an expansion of that business. 
"He was doing shoe repair and selling Red Wing and Dingo boots," Jon said. "I remember going in the back in my dad's repair shop and basically cleaning up at the end of the day for him and organizing all of his tools and equipment. It was a messy business." 
The clean-up chore earned him 25 cents a pop.
"That's probably all they could afford with seven kids," Jon said. "A family of nine doing shoe repair, money was very very tight. Dad never had any kind of government assistance and I remember sometimes Pure Food Store - when food was close to expiration - would occasionally bring us a bag of groceries. That was pretty cool how things went back in the old days - pulling together to help each other."
The experience Jon gained while working the family business was priceless in another way. 
"It kind of gave me a feel for working with my hands," he said. 
The boys also retrieved boots for customers to try on. By the time they were 16, they were taking evening shifts running the store. The shoe trade had been handed down through the family, originating with Benny's dad, who came to America from Rome. 
"My grandfather was a shoe repairman and died when my dad was about 12 years old and my dad's Uncle August took my dad in and made him go to work. He was the oldest child and had to help support the family," Joe said. 
The family does not take that history lightly - nor for granted. The value of a dollar and a good work ethic was instilled in them at an early age, Joe and Jon said. 
While attending BHS, they were active in sports - baseball, football and basketball included. After their 1981 graduation, they both went to Fairmont State College - Joe studying electrical engineering technology with a business minor and Jon obtaining a technical degree in mechanical engineering plus a drafting design/architectural degree. 
"Probably in the back of our minds, those degrees were really just for a backup plan," Jon said. "We really planned on going into the business." 
Joe worked various jobs, including those with Neilsen Ratings and American Greetings, but he also continued working with his dad. Jon went on to pursue a job in his field of study, moving to Michigan where he had relatives living. That really didn't pan out the way he had planned and he started his own car stereo/home audio business. 
"It was pretty successful," he said. "I was up there for about five years." 
In the meantime - in December of 1990 - Joe bought out his dad's portion of the business and eventually purchased Aaron's Shoe Store. Jon helped finance the deals and decided to move back and take an active part. 
"I was with Joe from 1992 to 1997. We actually had three stores - at Eastpointe, Meadowbrook Mall and one in Westover," Jon said. 
He decided it really wasn't his niche. 
"Joe didn't like being tied down and working. He wanted to expand more than I did," he said. "I thought it would be better if I did something else - and that I would like it better." 
While the brothers were working together, they combined the stores at Eastpointe and the mall and eventually  doubled the size of our mall store, moving into a bigger mall storefront where Joe stayed until 2007. 
"It was actually my dad who pushed me a little bit to get my own location," Joe said. "We were looking around for locations and had two that I was looking at."
He decided upon the Barnett Run Road property. He designed the complex and had it built - by Jon's construction company. Benny's Boot Hill moved into the upper floor of the building in 2007.The initial plan was to rent the bottom portion, but after two years he opened two new businesses, Mountaineer World, selling WVU apparel and other items, and the accompanying Mountaineer Grille. 
Joe had dabbled in Mountaineer products at Benny's Boot Hill. Being right along the interstate where thousands travel to WVU games, he knew it would go over. 
"I knew some guys who had started a Mountaineer store in Charleston and I figured if they could do it in Charleston - two and a half hours away from Morgantown - than I should be able to do it 35 minutes away," he said. 
As for the restaurant, part of the inspiration was his brother Kevin, a certified chef. Mountaineer World opened in September of 2009 and Mountaineer Grille opened the following month. Kevin remains the head chef at the restaurant, which is visited by travelers and frequented by locals. Both retail stores are also doing very well. 
"We've probably grown in gross sales 25 percent year after year since 2007. That's pretty big in retail," Joe said. "Benny's Boot Hill has a large following. I'd say we get customers from a 100-mile radius and Mountaineer World is mostly a football-oriented type store so it's mostly traffic coming through I-79." 
As was instilled in him as a young boy, personal customer service is important and he has carried those values over to his own businesses, he said. 
Jon's construction company - named after his children Alicia and Vincent - is also a success. He works closely with his sister Jackie Pinti Koval, a kitchen and bath designer with Koval Supply. 
Jon and Joe credit their early experience with family business for helping them in their success. 
"I do have an appreciation for that experience. It is a huge deal," Jon said. "The business experience I got with my family was much better than our college degrees." 
Jon said he is very glad he moved back to Bridgeport. He and Joe remain close. 
"We both have Corvettes and we restored some older cars back in the day. For a while we were into the '64 Galaxies," Jon said. "We like to fish a little bit, but mostly we're workers." 
There's another reason Jon is glad he moved back to his hometown. 
"Dad died in 2001 and I'm glad I had the opportunity to spend some time with him before he passed away," he said. "My mom told me he cried every day I was away. Of course, she never told me that until after he passed away." 
Everybody in town loved Benny, the boys said. They are both grateful for their past - and for the City of Bridgeport and surrounding areas who have supported them. 
Jon's children Alicia and Vincent are both students at Bridgeport High School. Joe and his wife Pam Hitt Pinti are the parents of Tyler of Morgantown and Marcus, assistant manager at Benny's Boot Hill. Marcus has a one-year-old daughter - the Pintis' only granddaughter - Madeline. Pam recently retired as secretary of BHS. 
Editor's Note: From top are Joe and Jon Pinti, images of Benny's Boot Hill, Mountaineer World (Jon and employees) and Mountaineer Grille and Alicia and Jon Pinti. 

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