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Many in area worked for Thorofare; others have poignant recollections |

Many in area worked for Thorofare; others have poignant recollections

Ron Paglia
| Sunday, March 4, 2007 12:00 a.m

Steve Krassa, Cletus Doptis and Lane Core have plenty of memories of their years with Thorofare supermarkets. And they count their co-workers as the best part of those recollections.

Among the other area residents remembered by Krassa, Doptis and Core as Thorofare alumni are:

Bill Brant, Catherine (Kate) Palfrey Moss, Walter Rowland, Clyde Harshman, Ron Olson, Betty Massini, John Yantek, Don Pordash, Irma Fritz Henry, Don Robison, Jim Mullen, Bob Antonio, Jon Cox, Jean Hevia, Dorothy Aleshonick, Joyce Chuprinko, Mary Hreno Pavlik, Elaine Kinsey Ulens, a guy remembered only as “Butterball,” Tom Dury, Frank Dreucci, Harold Lambert, Jack Pesi, Jack Pivovarnik, Ruth Marek, Terry Manzini, Andy Sheponick, Walter Yuschak, Martha Metz, Greg Grehula, Carl Minkovich, Bill Franks, Don Robison, Donald Hogan, Jim Lucas, Jack Tinivell, George Lucas, and John Gray.

Olson continues to work in the business today as manager of Duritza’s Market in North Belle Vernon.

Krassa also lauded such Thorofare executives as L.B. Smith, who served as president, and his son, Bud Smith, who ascended to that position when his father retired; vice presidents Sam Henry and Andrew Brain, Thad Harshbarger, and supervisors Albert Caputa, Tom Drake and August Fontanessi.

Mary Hreno Pavlik, of Monessen, worked at the Charleroi and Monessen stores and recalls a “great feeling of togetherness” among employees.

“We were like one big family,” Pavlik recalled. “We got along so well, employees with each other and also with our customers. It was a great place to work.”

Pavlik was working at Monessen Laundry and Dry Cleaners when Thorofare announced it was accepting job applications for the new Monessen store in the late 1950s.

“I was one of the first people hired (at Monessen) but I went to the Charleroi store first for training,” she said. “Steve Krassa was the manager in Charleroi and he prepared us well for our new jobs. Walter Yuschak, of Charleroi, was the manager of the Monessen store when it opened and Cletus Doptis was assistant manager.”

Pavlik, whose husband, Andy Pavlik, died 19 years ago, also recalled such co-workers as produce manager Jim Lucas, of Coal Center; meat manager Don Hogan, of Uniontown, and Walter Rowland.

“The supermarket did very well,” Pavlik said. “We featured top quality meat and produce, and the employees were polite and helpful. I worked there 14 years but had to give up my job because my husband became ill. It was sad to see the stores close. Business declined, I guess, because of the economy.”

One of the highlights of Pavlik’s career came in March 1958. That’s when she was selected as a finalist in Thorofare’s Cashier-Checker of the Year contest. Pauline Gherlarducci, of Bridgeville, won the title and represented Thorofare in the regional contest of the program of the competition sponsored by the Super Market Institute. Pavlik and Gherlarducci were honored March 10 at a luncheon at the Carlton House hotel in Pittsburgh with the other finalists, Betty Yarkosky, of Canonsburg; Ann Scandinaro, of Swissvalle; and Joyce Chute, of Boston.

Presentations were made by J.P. Fry and S.J. Henry, vice presidents of Thorofare Markets. Judges were food editors Josephone Gibson of the Pittsburgh Press, Gladys Wholey of the Sun-Telegraph and Veronica Volpe of the Post-Gazette; Kay Neumann Comer of KDKA, and Richard J. Cook, editor of the Tri-State Food Trade publication.

Pavlik received a commemorative trophy from Yuschak and also received a gift certificate and manicure set from the company for her achievement.

A congratulatory letter from Thorofare President L.B. Smith Jr. also remains among the memorabilia of Pavlik’s tenure at the Monessen store.

“I would like to add my personal congratulations to the many hundreds you have received,” Smith wrote. “I regret very much that I was unable to be with you at your luncheon, but I am delighted with the many glowing compliments paid you. You have every right to be exceedingly proud of the honors extended to you, for they are truly deserved.”

The former Thorofare employees aren’t the only ones with memories of the stores.

Fred Fundy, of North Belle Vernon, still has a check-cashing card from the Charleroi store.

“It’s signed by Steve Krassa,” Fundy said. “Anyone who shopped at Thorofare should remember those cards. I kept mine for very sentimental reasons because it’s dated the day (Dec. 28, 1971) my father passed away.”

Fundy also recalls with gratitude the kindness of Thorofare employees.

“I remember one of the guys who worked in the meat department,” Fundy fondly recalled. “I think his nickname, of all things, was ‘Butterball.’ He used to give me a break (in price) on the meat that was about to reach its expiration date. As a newlywed and a very poor (financially) teacher, I appreciated that. I’m sure others feel the same way.”

Louis J. Panza Jr., president and CEO of Monongahela Valley Hospital, recalled his family’s link to the supermarket chain was strengthened because of his uncle, Joe Panza, who lived in Cheswick.

“Uncle Joe, who also was my godfather, worked in the Thorofare warehouse,” said Panza, a resident of Union Township who grew up in Aspinwall and graduated from Fox Chapel High School. “And I remember Thorofare Days at the old West View Park. My mother would buy tickets, five to a strip, to use at the park on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It was always a fun part of summer to go to the park and ride for free.”

Panza, whose memories were rekindled with a photo of the Thorofare store in Fox Chapel, one of many featured on the Thorofare link of the Web site, recalled that Aspinwall had A&P and Kroger stores as well as Thorofare.

“But in the summer we always wanted Mom to shop at Thorofare because of the West View tickets,” he said.

Mike Mino, of Johnstown, a graphic designer, said an experience with Thorofare sparked his interest in collecting antique toys.

“I was about 5 or 6 and we were returning from a shopping trip at Thorofare,” Mino recalled as he admired an archive picture of the former store in Ferndale. “I had a small, gray plastic caveman my parents bought for me and it fell between seats of my Dad’s old Ford station wagon. I never found it. I’ve searched for it on E-bay and hopefully someday I will find another one. I loved that little plastic caveman from Thorofare.”

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