DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Flying Pizza in downtown Dayton is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The popular pizzeria opened October 1, 1971 and the owner said it was also a Friday. Decades later, John Graci the owner, has retired and his sons now run the pizza spot

“We were the first one in Dayton to sell pizza by the slice,” said Graci. “Everybody was serving pizza by the whole pie.”

The pizza place is famous for it’s New York style and the pizza makers tossing the pizzas into the air. To celebrate the 50th anniversary, The Flying Pizza was joined by hundreds of customers new and old…including the very first customer ever.

“He made this wonderful establishment through many years and now his sons are taking over the old tradition and it hasn’t lost its taste,” said Kenneth Screven, that first customer.

Screven shared that on the day that The Flying Pizza opened, he had just moved to Dayton and was hoping to get a taste of pizza like he remembered from home. He was surprised to find the man behind the counter, Graci, was the same owner of his favorite pizza back home in New York. Now, the two men share a close bond.

Graci is also remembered by his customers and supporters for his community actions.

“This is what a business owner really looks like,” said John DiPietro, a supporter of Graci and President of the Dayton FOP. “He’s the epitomy of a great business owner he’s giving back to the community.”

DiPietro remembers a time that Graci stepped up to help with something non-pizza related.

“Our friends at the Dayton police department needed an interpreter for somebody that spoke Italian and they quickly picked [Graci] up and took him to the scene and he really helped them out,” said DiPietro.

Graci received a declaration from the state celebrating this 50th anniversary. The family says they’re thankful to everyone who has supported them through the decades and hope to stay many more years.