About A&W of Smithfield

The History of A&W of Smithfield

 

 

          In 1959 Joe Fanning was a mill worker living in Smithfield, RI.  He decided to open a business on Route 44 in Greenville.  He hired a carpenter and built the landmark restaurant the old fashioned way: with a hammer, saw and his own two hands.  He finished in time to open for the summer and he hung out a sign that still lives today; A&W Rootbeer. 

          In those early days the rootbeer would cost a nickel, a dime for a large.  During the golden days of the drive-in restaurant Fanning’s A&W would employ up to seven (7) carhops at a time, all working different areas of the parking lot.   In fact, there were times when it was necessary to employ a police officer to direct traffic into and out of the restaurant during the busiest times.

He operated until 1984 when he retired and sold the going concern to Joel Feinberg.  A Cranston resident who had experience working in the food industry, he continued the tradition of the A&W brand in Rhode Island beginning in March of 1985.   Feinberg was successful with the A&W restaurant, but after a time it was his wish to retire.  

          He put the restaurant up for sale in 1993 and the buyers at that time chose not to operate as an A&W franchise.  The buyers operated for two seasons as “Bills Old Time Rootbeer”.   Unfortunately, without the A&W brand name, “Bills Old Time Rootbeer” was not successful in Greenville and the business was turned back over to Joel Feinberg after less than two seasons.

          Feinberg put the business on the market again, and also considered selling the land and building to another type of business (a coffee shop, etc).  At that time Stephanie Mosca became aware from an A&W employee that the business was for sale.

          Stephanie Mosca was a native a Smithfield, RI who had graduated from Johnson & Wales University with a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management.  She had worked for a catering company in Boston, MA as a manager responsible for an account at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.

 Having grown up in Smithfield and recognizing the potential for success there she reached out to Feinberg to begin negotiations.  After agreeing to terms, Stephanie had a final condition to the sale:  the ability to regain the A&W franchise and brand name.

          The first summer season for the “new” A&W began in March of 1995 and was immediate success.  The business began as a family business and has operated that way ever since.   Almost all of Stephanie Mosca’s sisters have worked at the restaurant at one time or another; and her younger sister Pennie Nero continues working today as the General Manager, having been an indispensable part from the beginning.

          The Tuesday cruise is the longest running single site weekly cruise; it is hosted each week by radio personality Cruisin Bruce Palmer.  The cruise is currently managed and run by Pennie Nero.  The cruise will attract an average of 100 classic show cars and there have been times when a police officer has been hired to handle the traffic from a busy Tuesday night.

          Also in the spirit of the family business, Stephanie Mosca’s children Angelo (age 16) and Isabella (age 14) both currently work at the restaurant.  They have been pitching in since they were young, and are happy today to paid members of the staff of A&W. 

          In an effort to modernize the facilities and upgrade the experience of the customer, Mosca did an remodel of the building several years ago.  In addition to coming up to the new fire code, she extensively upgraded the kitchen, bathrooms and patio area.  The roof was replaced and the overall lifespan of the fifty year old building was extended into the 21st century.

          The recipe for success in today’s A&W is literally and figuratively the same as when Joe Fanning opened in 1960.   The rootbeer recipe is exactly the same today as when Fanning mixed his first batch that first summer.  Also, the use of car-hops (“Turn Lights On for Service”); and tray on the window service of rootbeer in mugs is part of the nostalgic charm that continues today.



  

 Facts About A&W Of Smithfield

 

  • Opens the second Saturday of March annually.   Hours are 11:00am-9:00pm daily and 11:00am-11:00pm in the summer.
  • There have been three owners of A&W of Smithfield since the opening in 1960:                         

                                            Joe Fanning                1960-1985

        Joel Feinberg              1985-1993  **

        Stephanie Mosca       1995-Present

  * 1993 & 1994 seasons operated as “Bill Old Time Rootbeer”

  • This begins the 16th season for the current ownership
  • A&W of Smithfield is the only Carhop style dining option in Rhode Island; the only place to obtain “tray on the window, rootbeer in the mug” service.
  • The Tuesday Night Cruise night is the longest running single site weekly cruise in Rhode Island.  This season will be the 15th year of the Tuesday Night Cruise with Cruisin Bruce Palmer.
  • Since re-opening in 1995 A&W of Smithfield has served:

-over 1,000,000 hot wieners

-over    97,000 gallons of rootbeer poured in frosted mugs

-over    40,000 gallons of rootbeer poured for rootbeer floats

  • Channel 10 has done a coffee cup salute to A&W of Smithfield on the Sunrise News for the past five years.
  • The price list for items when A&W first opened in 1960:
      • 14oz Rootbeer            $  .10
      • Quart of Rootbeer     $  .35
      • Gallon of Rootbeer    $  .65
      • Hot Dog                      $  .20
      • Large French Fry       $  .45
      • Hamburger                 $  .25

Hot dog, French Fry, Orange Soda               $1.99

Hamburger, French Fry, Rootbeer               $1.99

  • There was an employee reunion in 2006 that attracted almost 50 previous employees going back to the first season of 1960, the original owner Joe Fanning, and one couple that met working at A&W and later married.