Mark Baranowski started his career by buying the original North Park Lounge on Babcock Boulevard in McCandless.
That was 23 years ago.
Today, in addition to the original, Baranowski also owns the North Park Lounge and Bamboo bar in Cranberry, the Cabana Bar in Wexford and Bonnie & Clyde’s, which opened in February at the Pine Tree Shoppes in Wexford.
"We don't have a name for it yet, but it'll be food-wise a menu like North Park Lounge in McCandless, maybe not as many dinners, but it will have wings, subs, salads, and all the appetizers and sandwiches," Baranowski said. “We'll have a lot of TV's so it will be a good place to go to watch sporting events. Then at night it would probably be something similar to what Jergel's used to do, bands, a dee jay or some form of entertainment.”
Baranowski hopes to close on the property in the next month, and is planning extensive renovations before opening, possibly before the holidays in December.
When he bought his first restaurant, Baranowski admits he didn’t know much about the food service industry, but armed with an accounting degree from Duquesne University and an M.B.A. from West Virginia University, he was anxious to get started and follow in his family’s footsteps.
“Our family owned the Northway Car Wash, and my older brother bought Kneiss’ Miniature Golf course,” he said. “I was raised in an entrepreneurial family. So I knew I wanted to go into business, but I didn't know what I wanted to do. When North Park Lounge came available, my friend Greg Maggio, who had a restaurant background, partnered with me and we ended up doing that restaurant.”
Maggio and Baranowski remained partners for 11 years, buying three more restaurants before going their separate ways. Maggio died in 2005 of complications following surgery. He was 46.
Having grown up in a family business environment, Baranowski is hoping his two sons, Eddie and Brock, follow in his footsteps, “if they want,” he insisted.
His oldest daughter, Jordan, already works for the company.
“She graduated from the University of Akron and now works with my controller and human resources person,” he said.
The Baranowski family lives in Pine, where all three children excelled at sports.
“Jordan was on the soccer team the year Pine-Richland won the state championship,” Baranowski said. “She played alongside Meghan Klingenberg, who is alternate for the U.S. women’s Olympic soccer team.”
Baranowski’s oldest son, Eddie, played basketball and football at Pine-Richland and now attends the University of Pittsburgh.
The youngest son, Brock, is a standout running back and defensive back going into his senior year for the Rams.
“We are not sure where he will end up in college, wherever football takes him,” said Baranowski. “He wants to be able to compete at the highest level possible.”
Should his sons decide to join their father in the family business, they will have plenty to keep them busy. Baranowski is teaming with real estate broker Herky Pollock to redevelop the former Blue Spruce motel on Route 22 in Murrysville.
“It's a big development, it is six acres, four different buildings,” he said. “There will be a day care center, a Starbucks, a Sports Clips, plus a number of other retail shops. I’ll anchor the one corner with a North Park Lounge and a big outdoor area, and on the other corner there will be the restaurant, Burgatory.”
And if that isn't enough, Baranowski is also moving into Pittsburgh’s north shore in 2014, opening another North Park Lounge in a new development that has yet to break ground across from the Jerome Bettis Grille 36 and next to Stage AE.
Baranowski credits his success to his staff.
“My managers and my employees are really great,” he said. “We have so many good people, and people who have been with us for a long period of time. We take care of them, we have big Christmas parties and we take our managers away on vacation and things like that," he said. "We just got a really, really good crew of people, it makes all of the difference in the world.”
As for the future, Baranowski has no plans to slow down.
“I want to keep growing. I love what I do and it's a lot of fun,” he said. “As long as I'm having fun I'm going to keep doing it.”
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- Nearby: North Park Lounge Owner Plans New Location on Southside, Delays Opening of North Hills Restaurant