Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Joey: Only In Philadelphia, Only In America!
His father and his brother were criminals.
Growing up, he said he was called "dago, wop -- all those names."
He was a street kid, but his instincts were good and he was able to roll with the punches.
In 1966, with only six bucks in his pocket and a $1,000 loan from his father-in-law, he started a business -- a business that didn't even bear his own name.
But everybody knew him and many came to love and revere him.
By the time he passed away yesterday at age 71, he was an international celebrity and a multimillionaire whose name had become synonymous with the Philly Cheesesteak.
With just one shop in just one location, Joey Vento presided over Geno's Steaks, a business that reportedly brought in more than $7 million a year.
No matter how successful he was or how much money he made, nothing kept Joey from the hard, constant, daily grind of the business. He often arrived on site at 4 A. M. He took pride in his shop, its strategic South Philly location, his employees and most of all in the people who flocked to his business -- the customers and colorful characters who lined up around the clock to buy a Geno's Cheesesteak.
And Joey never forgot the neighborhood -- he never forgot his beginnings, his roots. Joey's tough demeanor belied a soft heart. In South Philly and well beyond, he was "Mr. Compassion."