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‘POP’ Star: Actor looks back on creating an iconic restaurant

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You can call him William. You can call him Bill. You can even call him “Stink.”

But don’t call him late to dinner. After all, back in 2005, William “Stink” Fisher was on the leading-edge of Collingwood becoming a foodie destination.

It all happened because Fisher, 51, and his ex-wife Connie Correia, went out to dinner with their then-toddler son.

The Haddon Avenue eatery they chose, a deli by day, a white tablecloth spot at night, was one of less than a handful of restaurants in the borough back then.

“Our son was babbling, and throwing his food. People were looking daggers at us,” said Fisher, whose nickname came from his own childhood. ”We wound up going back to our car. And we asked each other ‘Why does Collingswood have no family restaurants?’”

Fisher and Correia, the founding publisher of Cuizine magazine, cookbook author and marketing specialist whose long-held dream was to own a bed and breakfast, decided to open a family-friendly restaurant themselves. “If we didn‘t, someone else would,” said Fisher.

And so, the idea for The Pop Shop, a retro-themed landmark on the Collingwood restaurant scene, was born.

While Correia knows food and has a degree from Johnson & Wales University in hotel and restaurant management, the idea of starting a restaurant from scratch was a bit daunting for the couple.

“We went to (get a business loan), and were told ‘This is the best business plan I ever saw,’” said Fisher. “We got the loan.”

Not bad for a guy whose background, up until then, mostly featured playing football, including a flirtation with the NFL, as well as acting.

Fisher grew up in Cherry Hill, the son of Herb and Barbara Fisher. Herb Fisher was a teacher at Cherry Hill High School West as well as the football coach at Cherry Hill East, where his son attended classes.

Stink Fisher was a football star — All-Conference, All-County, All-State, All South Jersey. He was heavily scouted, including by his dream school, the University of Michigan, of the Big 10 Conference.

That dream came to an abrupt end when the head coach, on his way to Philadelphia to meet with Fisher and his parents, had a heart attack at the airport in Michigan. “I was devastated, and was hoping everything was OK with him,” said Fisher. But the school then stopped recruiting him. Fisher thinks superstition, a driving factor in sports, could have played a role. “They may have thought it was a bad omen,“ he said.

Instead, he signed at the University of Minnesota, where he played for 2½ years. As a defensive lineman, he became frustrated when he was switched to the offensive line. Next, he played for Towson State in Maryland and had a good season and interest from the National Football League. “I wasn’t told (about the NFL inquiries), because they didn’t want me to leave,” he said. Angry at the omission, “I was done.”

Back in South Jersey, he was working and attending community college when the coach at Rowan University, former Philadelphia Eagles player John Bunting, asked him to play for him. Fisher did, and the team went to the NCAA Division III National Semifinals.

He didn’t get drafted, but was offered free agency by the New York Jets. After the team picked up two veteran defensive linemen, Fisher was cut from the roster. He went on to play in the Arena Football League for Tampa Bay and Connecticut, and for Montreal of the Canadian Football League, where he was offered a two-year contract. When he told Correia, she said she didn’t want to live in Montreal.

As it turned out, Fisher didn’t have to move to Canada either. He got a call from an old friend, casting director Alicia Jacobson offering him work in a commercial being shot at Veterans Stadium with then-Eagles quarterback Rodney Peete. It was his first introduction to acting, and he was hooked.

Soon came the call to audition for the remake of the prison football film “The Longest Yard.” He got the role as a member of the team, and filmed for five months in Santa Fe and Los Angeles.

Next, there was a role in another football-themed film, “Invincible,” based on the true story of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Vince Papale.

It was during this time that he and Correia were hard at work putting together the Pop Shop. “Between takes I would get on the phone with a plumber, electrician,” he recalled. He also was very hands-on, doing some of the demolition and construction work himself.

Then came Sept. 20, 2005 — the restaurant’s opening day. The doors were unlocked for breakfast at 7 a.m. For the first hour, not one diner showed up. “We looked at each other and said, ‘What did we do?’” said Fisher.

Finally, a mom and dad with a baby arrived at 8 a.m. “And it didn’t stop for years,” he said.

The restaurant was not only popular with Collingswood residents, but throughout South Jersey as well. And then in 2012, Food Network star and chef Bobby Flay showed up.

The restaurant, with a menu of 300 items including 31 varieties of grilled cheese sandwiches, went spatula-to-spatula against Flay on his show, “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.” The chef made a grilled brie and goat cheese with bacon and green tomato sandwich. Fisher whipped up the restaurant‘s top-selling Calvert, which has Monterey Jack, turkey, bacon and avocado on rosemary focaccia. The audience voted; and Fisher and the Pop Shop came out on top.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds continued to stream to the restaurant, and in February 2015, Fisher opened an outpost in downtown Medford. He and Correia, who have two sons, now 20 and 15, dreamed of franchising the Pop Shop concept, but after much research, that never came to fruition.

In September 2020, they sold the restaurant to Gary and Joanne Gardner, who continue to run it today. “It was right before COVID, the timing was absolutely crazy,” said Fisher.

Today, he continues to act, having appeared in films including “The Lovely Bones,“ “Invincible,“ and “Arthur,“ as well as on TV in “Blue Bloods,“ and “Gotham, in which he played villain Aaron Helzinger. He also appeared multiple times doing sketch comedy on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.“

He also is a licensed real estate agent affiliated with RE/MAX Preferred in Cherry Hill, and is writing a screenplay with friends, as well as shopping around another for a comedy.

He remains proud of what he and Correia accomplished with the Pop Shop. “We wanted to bring something unique to the town we loved and lived in,“ he said. “We fed so many people.“

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