Dunmorean of the Month: Bob Ragnacci

By Steve Svetovich

Serving the public with high quality dining at affordable pricing has been Bobby Ragnacci’s forte for the past 40 years.

His business, Ragnacci’s Restaurant, 507 S. Blakely St., Dunmore, is one of the best known establishments in the area.

Son of Antoinette and the late Robert Ragnacci, the long-time restaurant owner, a 1973 Dunmore graduate, received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from East Stroudsburg University in 1977. 

He quickly became a teacher at the Dunmore Elementary Center, but was furloughed in 1979-80 before going back to teaching there again in 1989 until he retired in 2015.

Still, he found out during his furlough from teaching that the restaurant business was in his blood.

His uncle, August DiBiasie, opened the restaurant in 1963 and ran it until 1981 when it was known as Sharkey’s.,

“I worked there in high school and then again in college, so I had a feel for it,” said Ragnacci, “I started teaching at Dunmore, but when I got furloughed, that is what pushed it for me to be in the restaurant business. I bought the business from my uncle in 1981. I eventually started teaching at Dunmore again in 1989, so I needed help from the family to keep running the business. 

“I had a lot of help from my wife and early on from my uncle. My mom helped out a lot in the restaurant. My mom is 88 now. My dad handled the paperwork and bills until he passed away in 2000.”

Married for 30 years to the former Antoinette Pasquariello, Ragnacci, 65, has no immediate plans of retiring.

“We have a lot of loyal customers. I can almost always predict what night they will be in and what they will order. A lot of times they go out of their way to compliment one of our waitresses for their service and the food served. That is the most exciting and best part of running a restaurant. It is nice seeing that. It is rewarding.” 

Ragnacci said his goal has always been to serve quality food at affordable prices.

His specialties at the restaurant include Italian homemade dishes, the various homemade pasta and sauce his wife makes, chicken Marsala, chicken Parmesan, various choices of veal, New York strip steak, filet mignon, stuffed clams, antipasto, steamed clams, U-Peel shrimp, chicken Alfredo, grilled pork chops, lobster and shrimp scampi, surf and turf, veal Marsala, veal piccata, spaghetti with sausage, meatballs or shrimp and penne pasta with meatballs or sausage. All Italian specialties are served with a cup of soup, salad, potato and vegetable. Various desserts are also available. 

Ragnacci certainly aims to please his customers.

It is an inviting atmosphere that includes a small bar area with dining tables. Various drinks, including wine and beer, are served.

Ragnacci’s is open for lunch Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The popular Dunmore establishment is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday from 4:30 to 9 p.m. 

Takeouts were available during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic for three months followed by takeouts and outdoor dining until indoor dining was permitted again. “Due to our very loyal customers, we held our own during the worst times of COVID,” said Ragnacci. “We have great customers. We are so appreciative of our customers who were so supportive during a difficult time.”

Ragnacci is the proud father of three grown daughters: Kim Potoroski, 50, Marissa Jenesko, 38, and Gianna Ragnacci, 26.

He and his wife have two grandchildren: Eloise, 7, and Julianne, 5. “They are our pride and joy.”

Ragnacci, hard working with a sense of humor and positive outlook on life, has no plans to leave the business after recently celebrating 40 years of Ragnacci’s Restaurant. “I’m going to keep going. We love seeing the customers come in. We just had a regular customer come in from Binghamton, N.Y. We want to provide quality food to our good customers. And we keep the prices very affordable for them. We try to make it a nice, comfortable atmosphere. I like what I do.” 

Dunmorean of the Month: Brian Mills

By Steve Svetovich

Brian Mills is a proud lifelong Dunmore resident.

And he is even prouder to own and operate two of Dunmore’s oldest landmarks.

He is owner and operator of the Chestnut Street Tavern, 501 Chestnut St., Dunmore, and Brian’s Auto Body and General Repair Shop, LLC, 333 Chestnut St., Dunmore.

Both locations have housed Dunmore businesses for the past century. 

Mills, 52, has operated the Chestnut Street Tavern for the past 11 years. He met his wife, the former Lora Viola, a 1982 Dunmore graduate, there. She was a waitress at the time for Lombardo’s, the former name of the corner bar from 1978 to 2009. 

“The previous owner was selling and we decided to buy it and turn the business around,” he said. “We also got married.”

Prior to Lombardo’s, the corner bar at the landmark was Ianelli’s Bar, which opened in the early 1930’s after the owners came to Dunmore from Italy, Mills said. “There was a separate entrance for men and women back then. I know they used to have pasta dinners every Sunday.”

Mills calls the Chestnut Street Tavern one of the last corner bars around. He serves wine, bottled beer, eight different draft beers and IPAs. The bar is open from 11 a.m, to 2 a.m. six days a week and Sunday’s from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Steak and cheese, hamburgers, wings, pizza, meatball and all kinds of hoagies are among the specialties. The sauces are homemade. There is karaoke on Tuesday night and a D.J. on Friday and Saturday night. “It is a happening place,” Brian says.

Mills has been in the auto repair business for 34 years. He has operated at the Chestnut Street location for the past seven years.

The operation was previously Morell’s Auto and Body Shop, operated by the late Frank Morell for over 50 years. Morell was a former Dunmore Math and English teacher.

Prior to that, the landmark was used as both a butcher shop and funeral home. It was originally a horse and buggy shop going back over 100 years.

Mills has one daughter, Brittany Mills Boyd, 28, Scranton. He also has one granddaughter, Luna Boyd, 6. 

“I am very proud to own these two businesses which are both on Chestnut Street,” he said. “It is remarkable that these landmarks have housed businesses for over 100 years. Since I have lived in Dunmore my entire life, I enjoy serving this community.”

Dunmorean of the Month: Kate Jones

By Steve Svetovich

Kate Jones is a very proud lifelong resident of the Dunmore borough.

But the 1978 Dunmore High School graduate is just as proud of the work done at Goodwill Industries of Northeast PA (NEPA). nmoAnd she should be. 

She is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Goodwill Industries of NEPA. 

The Bloomsburg University sociology graduate has been married for 35 years to Jerry Jones. The couple has three sons: Jerry, 32, Tucker, 29, and Cory, 27. Jerry is married to the former Patti Kotchik of Dunmore and works in finance for Benco Dental. Tucker is an architect in Philadelphia. Cory is with the Single Corp stationed with the U.S. Army in Honolulu. 

Jones is proud of her four grandchildren: Patrick, Aidan, Adeline and newborn Emilia, only two months old. Patrick, 12, and Aiden, 10, are students at Dunmore Elementary School. 

Jones has been the CEO of Goodwill Industries of NEPA for the past five years.

Following her graduation from Bloomsburg, Jones started her working career as a mental health worker for The Friendship House, Scranton. She then went to work for a grant-funded program, the Private Providers Project, at Keystone College, Factoryville. 

She continued to work at Keystone College in a variety of capacities, mostly development and educational, for 33 years before taking on the position of CEO at Goodwill Industries. Her last title at Keystone was director of special events.

As the CEO of Goodwill Industries, she covers 11 counties in Northeast Pennsylvania. “There is a tendency for it to be more expensive to do retail in rural counties,” she said. 

“Goodwill also does behavioral support services as part of high school student transition plans. Our retail programs operate 12 group homes in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties. We also work with intellectual and developmental disabilities of autistic adults,” Kate explains. “We also participate in a drug treatment force and re-entry program to help clients get job ready.”

Jones, hard-working and community-oriented, pointed out that Goodwill provides many services the public is not aware of.  “As the CEO, all the departments report to me. It is not a huge non-profit, so I am involved with many of the day-to-day operations.”

Jones said Goodwill Industries received a grant from the Department of Labor and Industry to help individuals re-enter the community after an arrest or incarceration. “We work with these individuals on career readiness, resume writing, digital skills and what is needed for them to re enter the community in a positive manner.”

Jones said Wayne County recently appointed Goodwill Industries to do a pilot program. The Employment Services Program is a small workforce development program to help individuals overcome barriers and become employed. “That really is the reason we have our retail programs,” she said. “Buying donated goods through Goodwill translates into services. People don’t always make the connection there. Their donations help us to expand programs. We are in the business of helping people. Spreading the word of what Goodwill is all about helps us do that.”

Jones said Goodwill also owns and operates the Gerald T. Langan Residence and Senior Housing Facility which was originally North Scranton Junior High School. The facility provides lower income-based housing for senior citizens and was 22 years in the making, Jones said.

 It is also the location of The Theatre at North, an 800-seat, state-of-the-art facility which provides musical entertainment, concerts, and other programs for the public. The facility was originally the site of the North Scranton Junior High School auditorium.

Jones said Goodwill Industries also has an E Commerce Division which is ShopGoodwill.com. “The public can shop online.” The main warehouse for Goodwill Industries of NEPA is located in Throop.

Goodwill Industries also has pre-vocational and small group employment programs. Eligible individuals are assigned to do work-related tasks in stores as part of these programs, said Jones.

Jones succeeded Gerald Langan as Goodwill Industries CEO of NEPA.