Reading – Mike Bolano is nearing retirement, but you wouldn’t know it if you walked into Pike’s Café for lunch. Bolano, who owns the famous Reading Institution since 1985, welcomes every customer like an old friend. Many of them.
“It’s been Pike’s Café my whole life since I was 24,” he said. “I’ve met many good people over the years, whether it’s just a customer who comes once a year, comes once a week, or comes every day.”
Since he turned 62, Bolano has been thinking about his future.
“I want to reevaluate,” he said, “because I’ve been working here for 40 years.” “I want to reevaluate, and decide what I’m going to do in the last quarter of my life.”
In late 2021, he decides to sell Pike, Shirley’s Café, and Tequila Bar in Lauredale, to Kyle Riggs, Danny, and Vince Distefano, owners of Paradise by the Slices in Wernersville. The sale is still pending and will likely be completed in late July or early August.
“If you want to buy the two most successful mom-and-pop restaurants in Berks County, look no further,” Bolano recalls. We both made a deal we couldn’t refuse.”
Bolano and Riggs met three years ago through a bartender who worked part-time at both Pike and Paradise by the Slice. Riggs and DiStefanos made frequent visits to Pike, monitoring the restaurant’s inner workings and building client relationships.
“They’re really good people, and they know what they’re doing,” Bolano said. “They run Paradise by the Slice, and what made me trust them the most, is their plan to keep everything as is.”
Pike’s new owners plan to keep the menu and staff intact.
“Just carry on with the tradition,” Riggs said. “They are the same friendly people you’ve always known.”
Riggs likes to say that he and Shirley Cafe are both children of the red-haired couple.
“Bayk alone is a monster,” he said. “And heaven is my Wernersville little monster. We joke we’re so focused on Pike, we can forget about Shirley. This little monster is a well-oiled machine.”
In retirement, Bolano plans to “take a refreshing pill” and help Riggs run restaurants. He also wants to do more volunteer work with charities like the Hope Rescue Mission. As he often does, he quoted Lonnie Walker as saying “I’m just a kid from Reading.”
“I’ll stay in Reading,” Bolano said. I will not move to Florida. I spent my time in the city 40 years ago. I still believe in Reading.”
So did Riggs, who wants to present special events in Pike as Bolano did. He hopes these events will attract more people to the city.
“Everyone knows Pike and what Mike built here,” Riggs said. “No one could do better than what Mike built. It gave people a reason to get into reading.”
Bolano wants to live his legacy on Pike.
“I want them to remember that I gave everything I got,” he said. “I gave everything I had to this city. What do I want them to remember about me? That I did the right thing. I was the best person. And I tried to give clients what they wanted over the years.”