By Steve Svetovich
If you grew up in Dunmore, you knew King Joe.
He is a Dunmore legend.
“King Joe” Amendolaro died this past July 29 at 94.
For decades, he ran a mom and pop store at three different Drinker Street locations in Dunmore.
King Joe earned numerous weightlifting titles on the world stage.
He helped countless Dunmore football players with strengthening and weight lifting programs for about three decades in his basic Drinker Street gym.
His family helped him run the store. And that was 365 days a year. That meant Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and the Fourth of July.
He was open every single day for his customers. Just in case they needed anything.
The third and final location of the business was at 622-624 E. Drinker St., Dunmore. King Joe occupied that location from 1971 through 1995, but was in business since 1954.
“The large gamut of inventory in the 2,400 square feet came to be because if a customer asked for something my dad didn’t have, he told them he would do his best to get it,” said his son Joe.
The cross section of inventory you could purchase at King Joe’s included aspergum,.22 bullets, Gravy Train dog food, Progresso soup, Sports Illustrated, spools of yarn, a dozen eggs, gallon of milk, Parodi cigars, packs of Marlboros, Hershey’s ice cream bars, bags of coal, cases of water, blocks of ice, Matchbox cars, boxes of Life cereal, shoelaces, a watch battery, Oscar Mayer hot dogs, a road flare, Tastykakes, get-well cards, bottles of Pepsi, a key made, baby formula, Silence is Golden cough syrup, pieces of Profera’s pizza, a plastic model of a 1970 Chevy Camaro, or even developing for your Kodak Instamatic pictures.
If you needed it, King Joe had it.
“My brother Tony is fond of telling the story about when a customer came in looking for a pair of drum sticks for a drum kit,” recalls his son Joe. “My dad bought a drum kit for one of us at Christmas. My dad wasn’t sure, but he came back behind the counter, rummaged through all the stuff and, sure enough, came up with a pair of drum sticks. When asked how much he was going to charge for them, my dad told the customer, “‘How can I charge for something I didn’t know I had?'”
His son Joe shared another story.
“Dad had a doll of a newborn baby wrapped in a blanket hidden behind the counter. If a toddler was acting up in the store, he would go behind the counter and start making sounds of a crying newborn. As he came out from behind the counter, he would lift his head from the doll, look at the child and say, ‘Shhh, you will wake the baby.’ The toddler would then become silent. It worked every time.”
King Joe was often misunderstood for promoting healthy living and exercise, but he did not want people to miss the opportunity or privilege of being well.
He had his rituals.
“On a Friday or Saturday night during the summer,” his son said, “after we closed the store at midnight, Dad would grab a creamsickle out of the ice cream freezer and tell my brother and me to throw the the ice tongs in the cab and we would drive to Moosic in a truck to a place that made block ice.
“The keys and access were at the rear of the building for after-hours business. Stored inside and upright were nearly 300 pound cakes of ice at five-feet tall. We would take at least a dozen with the help of a hydraulic platform and load them on the truck.
“Through the honor system, dad would slide the cash or check in a slot in a wooden box. To stop melting, we would cover the ice with a tarp and hope the wooden planks and cinder blocks on top would keep it from blowing away.
“When we got to the top of Drinker Street, we would hear the water dripping off the back of the truck. It was a reminder we were working against the clock. Once we got there at 1 a.m, someone would be in the truck cutting the blocks into manageable pieces. Another would take the blocks to the door of the ice house. And someone else would be hunched over inside in charge of storage.
“The three of us loved it and whoever came along made it that much more special.
“We would sell the ice in denominations of 25 pounds and had a crusher on the dock if the customer wanted it so.
“My dad always put on a clinic in customer satisfaction.”
King Joe was raised in Dunmore and left school in the 10th grade because he had to help his immigrant dad with his business, the Gold Medal Bakery in Scranton. He had to help out on the baker truck. King Joe’s dad had one leg and raised six kids on his own during the Depression after his wife died. King Joe was only 11 when his mom died. His parents were from Italy.
King Joe enlisted in the Army and was stationed in Alaska for two years before coming back to Dunmore and beginning his lifelong business ventures.
King Joe’s originated in 1956 as a general store/newsstand.
At the final location, King Joe had a gym in the back of the store where Dunmore football players were welcome to lift weights and train. He would bring thermoses of juice for the Dunmore football team to drink at halftime during home games. He filled up Dixie cups of juice for each player as he promoted healthy hydration. He showed Dunmore football players the benefits of Olympic weigh-lifting as opposed to power-lifting.
“He had great pride in football and Dunmore High School,” his son said.
King Joe is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Annette “Tootsie” Scartelli, and his sons Joe, 61, and Tony, 59, both graduates of Scranton Prep.