John’s Roast Pork: Big stories from a tiny shack

March 21, 2016 - Picnic Time

We always hear about a shiny, new food companies. The Spot is a array about a Philadelphia area’s some-more determined establishments and a people behind them.

John Bucci Jr., a third-generation renter of John’s Roast Pork, never designed to take over a family business, yet when his father, John Sr., was stricken with lung cancer, he left college to assistance his mom run a shop.

Eventually – generally after he got cancer himself – he satisfied sandwiches were his loyal calling.

The stand-alone shed that sits on Snyder Avenue like a guide of delicious compensation on a little triangle between a tyrannise marks and a Columbus Boulevard offered piazza wasn’t always a juggernaut it is today. When Bucci’s grandfather non-stop it in a 1930s, it was a little wooden building that fit no some-more than dual or 3 people.

The story goes that Italian newcomer Dominico Bucci arrived on Ellis Island in 1918 with zero yet a garments on his back. After he landed in Philadelphia, he started a catering business of sorts, regulating it out of his South Philly home. He would also park a train during Delaware Avenue and Reed Street and sell sandwiches to a stevedores and lorry drivers operative a bustling port.

That breakfast and lunch business incited out to be good, so Dominico leased a circuitously triangle of land from BO Railroad and combined a permanent counter. Everybody called it “the Pork Shack” (or some-more mostly than not, only “the Shack”) and it served a little organisation of regulars done adult of dockworkers, cab drivers, police, and firefighters.

In a early ‘60s, Domenico and his mother both fell ill, and their youngest son John stepped in to caring for them – and their luncheonette. John Bucci Sr. didn’t have most of a mind for business – he was a stellar automobile automechanic who worked for Potamkin and bound tanks in a Korean War – yet his wife, Vonda, did, and she assimilated him during a shop. The elder Buccis died in a late ‘60s, 6 months detached from any other.

After fending off a justice quarrel from an comparison hermit – who never worked in a emporium yet felt he was due a square – John and Vonda dug in. They brought on Vonda’s hermit Ferruccio “Ferry” Ciccotelli as partner. He was a carpenter, so with his assistance in 1967 they demolished a strange hovel and transposed it with a somewhat incomparable structure – a heart of that is still station today. For a initial time, a Pork Shack had a operative operation and grill, and food began to be prepared on site.

After dual decades of steady, if subdued, business, a Buccis were approached by a Goldenberg Group. The developers were formulation Snyder Plaza opposite a street, and they offering a sandwich business a possibility to pierce into what would turn a area’s initial offered center. The understanding had a Buccis handing over 18 percent of sum income to their landlords, on tip of what a Buccis believed was unreasonable rent. They declined. 

Right after that, John Sr. got sick, and Vonda went to her son with an offer: If we wish to leave propagandize and do this with me, I’ll get a loan from a relations and repair a place adult a bit. John Jr. agreed. A behind room with a walk-in was built, and a pointer with a pinkish pig dogmatic “John’s Roast Pork” was put up. In 1987, after 3 months of construction, John Jr. insincere his place behind a grill. His father died 4 years later, and he’s been there since.

Except for one life-changing period.

On a new Mar morning after one of his busiest weekends in history, Bucci, 50, sat during a cruise list outward his emporium described how The Inquirer’s Craig LaBan detected his sandwiches and done them famous, how his possess quarrel with leukemia incited him into a improved person, and given we’ll never see a second John’s Roast Pork location.


Your initial memory of this place?

Just always removing in a way. And [annoying] my father off when we would say, “How many sandwiches do we sell? What sells a best?” It’s a same questions people ask me today, actually, and we can finally answer them interjection to a new [point-of-sale] complement we installed. Nowadays we sell equal amounts of cheesesteaks and fry porks. It’s one-to-one.

Was your father always here?

He was, even yet my mom was unequivocally a smarts behind it. His famous line to her was, “Don’t ever come to me and tell me we’re broke. We should always have money.” OK, sure. But he was a hardest-working guy. Five days a week he would be here during 4 in a morning. We strictly non-stop during 5, yet he would open during 4:30 if he was ready. We were hardly creation a living. 

You don’t open during 5 anymore?

That was a initial thing we altered when we took over! It went to 6:45 – know why? Because we would come in and listen to Howard Stern when we was environment adult and his initial blurb mangle was during 6:45.

You took over when your father got sick

Yeah. It wasn’t an easy choice. we was during St. Joe’s, where we had a half-academic scholarship, and we had only pulled my grades adult to a 3.0. we was used to being good during school; during Saint John Neumann we was boss of a National Honor Society and graduated fourth in my class. But in college, everybody else was also smart. My initial division there was a disaster – we had a 1.86. So here we am, in my third year, finally with a B average, and it’s like, now you’re revelation me we wish me to quit?

How did we make a decision?

I went to my advisor – we wish we remembered his name, given he altered my life – and he asked, “Well, is your family’s business established?” we told him it wasn’t Pat’s or Geno’s or anything, yet it had been there given 1930. His recommendation was to go for it, given we could always come behind to propagandize and finish later. When we started operative during a shop, we realized, hey, I’m unequivocally good during this.

At creation pork? 

Not so most during scheming a meat, yet during creation a sandwiches. we was only a natural. we desired it! What we didn’t like most was traffic with a people. It was a unequivocally opposite throng – all blue-collar workers. They were indignant men, and they wanted their friggin’ lunch NOW. It was mostly only pig and beef and meatballs. We did have a good breakfast trade, too, given this was pre-Dunkin’ Donuts, pre-Starbucks. We used to go by 12, 13 urns of coffee and 16 dozen donuts a day. 

So we didn’t sell cheesesteaks? 

We did, only not that many. When Tony Luke’s non-stop … in ‘91 or so, we started offered a few more. We were frightened it would unequivocally harm a business, yet we consider it helped. Because people would go there and say, “Yeah, this is good, yet we also listened about this other place down a highway called John’s, let’s try it.” 

When did your cheesesteaks unequivocally take off?

It all started with a Inquirer essay “The Ultimate Cheesesteak” in 2001. It was 4 kids from Lower Merion High School, and they came in and pronounced their comparison plan was to find a best cheesesteak. They had their rulers, they were weighing things – they were all from well-to-do families. we had no thought they were operative with a Inquirer. 

But they were?

Yes. With Craig LaBan, that carries a lot of weight. we didn’t realize! So the article comes out on Aug 11, 2001, over a weekend, when we were closed. That Sunday, Craig calls me and he’s like, “I wish we systematic additional bread for Monday.” And I’m like, gosh, this guy’s kind of full of himself isn’t he? But he was right. 

You were busy?

I’m removing prepared to open, and we see all these people logging around outside. I’m like, what’s going on, this isn’t my normal 5 people who uncover adult in a morning! It unequivocally altered a lives, given after Craig wrote about us, other people did, too. In 2008, Glen Macnow ran a cheesesteak contest, and we won that, too. we indeed cried when we won, and Glen says, “Oh, he’s good over a cheesesteak.” But what he didn’t know is, it was a day before my bone-marrow transplant.

When did we find out we had leukemia?

It was 2006. we was personification a lot of racquetball and my shoulder hurts so we go into a doctor, who was a crony of mine, for a cortisone shot. we literally have one feet out a doorway and his bureau manager – Victoria, who’s now my mother – says, “Why don’t we get a blood test, only to see how your cholesterol is?” I’d never had a blood test. He calls dual weeks after and says, “Your white blood-cell count is 77,000.” we told him, “I don’t know what that means. I’m a sandwich maker.” He says it means possibly we have a serious infection or a early stages of leukemia.

So we indispensable a bone pith transplant?

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Not right away. We were treating it with verbal chemotherapy – we only swallowed pills in a morning – and it stabilized my blood. But afterwards we started carrying seizures, and a doctors told me it meant we indispensable to get a donor right away. we found one flattering quickly. Under a discipline of a donor bank, we can’t ever accommodate him. we asked why, and they told me, “Say this man runs on tough times and he comes in and says, ‘I saved your life, we need $10,000.’ What are we going to do?'” 

So that’s given I’m a orator for [national bone pith transplantation nonprofit] Be a Match. My crony said, “If we unequivocally wish to appreciate him, only assistance others by regulating your height as a ‘sandwich guru’ – that’s what Craig LaBan called me – to lift awareness.”  As a white Italian we had a 70 percent possibility of anticipating a match, yet if we was black or Hispanic, it would’ve been 7 percent. we reason fundraisers now and we try to discuss it to everybody we know.

You seem healthy now.

I was out of work roughly 2½ years. My mother and mom and niece – my sister’s daughter, Bethany “Boo” Messick – they were regulating a place. But we did get better. And we became a improved person, too. we mean, I’m not unequivocally religious. But when you’re in a sanatorium confronting life and death, we make deals. So I’m like, “Listen, God, if we make it by this I’ll be a improved person, we promise!”

I kept meditative of the article Craig did before we got a surgery, and it done me out to be this good guy. And I’m reading it like, wow, this would be smashing if this man unequivocally existed! So we was like, we could possibly go about this dual ways – we could keep being a jerk, or we could start being nice. My unchanging business indeed didn’t like it, they missed me being mean. But I’m most happier now.

Ever consider about expanding with some-more locations?

No. we can contend with certainty. I’m not doing that. People ask me all a time. They only consider it’s so easy – they contend they’ll lift all a money, that we won’t have to do anything. But a thing is, a peculiarity wouldn’t be a same – people don’t caring a approach we do. This is my passion. I’m nuts, and we straightforwardly acknowledge it.

John’s Roast Pork

14 E. Snyder Ave., 215-463-1951

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