Northeast Times
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A new neighbor in Rhawnhurst

The Northeast has lost another of its landmark, locally owned businesses and seems to be gaining yet another discount big-box chain store that so far has kept neighbors in the dark about its specific plans.


Running a spirited business

Andrew Auwerda, Rob Cassell and Tim Yarnall likely would’ve crashed and burned had they ventured a small start-up company into any other industry in 2005.


Getting down to business

Sometimes, it really is about who you know.


Life goes on

Janice Mannal plans a busy year as president of the Pennsylvania Funeral Directors Association.Mannal owns and supervises the Robert L. Mannal Funeral Home, a staple at Frankford and Tyson avenues since 1937.In June, she was installed as president of the 130-year-old organization during its annual convention in Hershey.“I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “It’ll be interesting to get out of the office a little. I’m going to be doing a little bit of traveling. I’m about to see places in Pennsylvania I didn’t know existed.”The funeral home sits on a little more than an acre at the southeast corner of Frankford and Tyson. The original building, constructed in 1908, was once a private home.Today the building is larger because of an addition, and the barn has been converted to garages.Robert L. Mannal, Janice’s father, opened the funeral home in 1937. He died in 1955, when she was 8 years old.Helen Mannal, who died in 1996, took over as owner after her husband’s death, but she did not have a funeral director’s license. A supervisor was hired to keep the business going.Young Janice was a student at the Frankford Friends School, and she and her older brother frequently welcomed friends into the home.“It was my normal life,” she said. “We lived upstairs and had a television on the third floor, so nobody would hear us during a viewing.”The family’s plan was for Robert Mannal II to take over his parents’ business, but he died at age 21.At the time, Janice was about to start her senior year at Abraham Lincoln High School. She would go on to study at Temple University, graduating with a degree in pre-mortuary science. She earned a degree in mortuary science from the New England Institute.“I thought I’d get my license and go on to do something else. I always wanted to work in production,” she said, referring to a behind-the-scenes role in the entertainment industry.Instead, starting in 1969, she took over the family business.The staff includes David V. Peake Jr., her 35-year-old son, who expressed an interest in the business while working there during summers between college semesters.“It’s worked out well,” she said. “He’s good.”Her other son, 31-year-old Robert “Liggett” Mannal Peake, is in the U.S. Army, stationed in Germany. He has served a tour of duty in Afghanistan.His mother is taking care of things at home. Forty-two years in the business and Janice Mannal shows no signs of slowing down.“I really didn’t think I’d be doing it forever in my sweet youth,” she said.So, what makes a successful funeral director?“I think you have to have a huge level of compassion,” she said. “It’s all about the family. I think I learned it by living it.”One other key is the condition of the interior and exterior of the property. Like many funeral homes, the Mannal site is immaculate.The grounds include plenty of parking spots, with spaces clearly marked with painted lines. Constant attention is paid to the grass, snow and windows.“Real estate is paramount,” Mannal said.Over the years, she has been active in industry organizations. She’s the former president of the Philadelphia Funeral Directors Association. She served 10 years on the Pennsylvania State Board of Funeral Directors, including two terms as chairwoman.In all of her leadership roles, she’s been the first woman to hold the posts. The current position, which is a volunteer role, is particularly prestigious.“Pennsylvania is one of the oldest associations and the largest. There are eleven-hundred members out of sixteen-hundred funeral homes in the state,” she said.For Mannal, the decision to branch out has been a natural one.“Why not be involved in an organization that supports what you do?” she asked. “All of us can get complacent. Any kind of conference or brainstorming energizes you.”Already, she has traveled to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for a leadership conference and is planning a trip to Chicago for the national funeral directors association convention in October.During her one-year term, she expects to promote a longtime association objective of encouraging funeral directors to pursue continuing education credits. The overall goal is to maintain the integrity of the industry.In addition, she’ll lead a discussion on consumer trends. “Certainly, there’s been an increase in cremations,” she said.Mannal estimates that traditional funeral services, which end in a burial, make up 75 percent of her business. The rest are cremations, just about equally split between services with ashes or a body that is later cremated.In states such as Florida, Arizona and California, which have a lot of retirees with children often living out of the area, cremations make up more than 50 percent of business.Funeral services have evolved in recent years, according to Mannal.“A major change I’ve seen is personalization,” she said. “More people are doing video tributes, memory boards and personalized prayer cards.”A state survey shows that the average funeral costs $8,000.Some people, Mannal said, have stopped running death notices in  newspapers because of the rising cost.Others count on funeral directors to handle all aspects of the service.“Ten years ago, I didn’t have a file of funeral luncheon menus,” she said, holding a stack in her hand. “Nor was I ordering flowers.”In trying to maintain and build her business, which is a mix of Catholic and Protestant funerals, Mannal advertises in church bulletins, sponsors church calendars and supports senior-citizen organizations.The services can take place at either a church or the funeral home, and Mannal said her business has benefited by word-of-mouth.The industry has been good to Mannal, and retirement is not on the horizon.“I love what I do. I’m very fortunate,” she said. “I get a great deal of satisfaction. Having done it as long as I have, it’s a part of who I am.” ••Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com


They’re here to collect

Torresdale native Adrian “A.J.” D’Angelo has worked in a bunch of different fields over the years — retails sales and management, insurance and investment sales and Web site design and instruction.


They’re here to collect

Torresdale native Adrian “A.J.” D’Angelo has worked in a bunch of different fields over the years — retails sales and management, insurance and investment sales and Web site design and instruction.


Pick 6 …

A couple of Lancaster County farmers are bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to Frankford.


It’s a Giant step for more jobs

A new supermarket opened in the Northeast last week. It was kind of a big deal, but that wasn’t just because the mayor and a bunch of other suits showed up to mark that opening the day before, or even because the Phillie Phanatic ran around the place as shoppers got their first looks. The Giant at 2550 Grant Ave. is as Mayor Michael Nutter described it: big and bright. The market, which opened its doors at 8 in the morning on Wednesday, July 20, is also the grocery chain’s first Philadelphia store, but it’s hardly the Northeast’s only market. There are several already in business not far away.The big deal is that Giant’s Philadelphia premiere adds 275 full- and part-time jobs to the city’s sagging economy.“If we need anything more than fresh foods, we need jobs,” Nutter said during a news conference on July 19, the day before the opening. “Welcome to Philly.” The new store is 74,000 square feet, and Giant itself is big. The company is the third-largest private employer in Pennsylvania, said spokesman Chris Brand. It has 185 stores and 31,000 employees.Giant began operations in Carlisle, Pa., where it still is based, in 1923. It has been operating in the suburbs for a couple decades and has stores in upstate Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.Giant’s parent company is big, too. The grocery chain is owned by Netherlands-based Ahold, which operates almost 3,000 stores with more than 200,000 employees in America and Europe. In the United States, Ahold also owns Martin’s and Stop & Shop food markets.“Projects like this just don’t happen,” Nutter said during  the confab, noting that City Councilwoman Joan Krajewski (D-6th dist.) was instrumental in making sure the market was built. Brand said the project was in development for more than two years. The Grant Avenue Giant has a modern and spacious décor, a wi-fi café, pharmacy and gas pumps. The company puts a lot of emphasis on its produce quality and selection. For example, Brand said, the store sells about 40 kinds of mushrooms. Giant buys produce from Pennsylvania farms, he said, and the produce section has a list of those farms and their locations.Nutter said the store opening will benefit Greenworks Philadelphia, a broad initiative that outlines the city’s future “green” strategies. “A key goal of the city’s Greenworks Philadelphia plan is to bring local food within a ten-minute walk to seventy-five percent of our residents by 2015,” Nutter said.The Northeast store also offers a variety of kosher products. How large that variety is seemed to surprise some customers, said John Ponnett, Giant’s director of fresh.The Giant’s kosher bakery and deli are operated under rabbinical supervision, Ponnett said, so “customers can have greater confidence” in the kosher products they buy.The company did a lot of market research — ran focus groups, conducted surveys and reached out to neighbors as the project was developing, Brand said.On July 19, the company’s president, Rick Herring, said Giant lives and gives in its community.“We regularly assist local non-profits,” he said.The company handed out $10,000 of that assistance last week. Beneficiaries included the Philadelphia fire and police departments, the food bank Philabundance, the city school district, the Gershman Y, Children’s Hospital, Liberty USO, NAACP, St. Joseph’s University, the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and even the 8th Police District Advisory Council.PDAC member Elsie Stevens said her organization got $1,000 from the grocer. The PDAC hadn’t asked Giant for anything, she added.“They sought us out,” Stevens said, noting that the money will be used for events sponsored by the organization, including next week’s National Night Out anti-crime program.The grocer also donated 50 park benches to Keep Philadelphia Beautiful for placement throughout the city. The benches are made from recycled plastic shopping bags that customers return to Giant stores.Brand said lines of people waited to enter the store when it opened last Wednesday. “It’s a pretty big opening,” he said while surveying the scene. The Phillie Phanatic added his famous brand of zaniness to the flash of cameras and cheers from customers.Those first-day shoppers had to walk by two groups of demonstrators as they entered and left the store. About 20 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers union quietly paced back and forth outside, promoting unionization for store employees.The other protesters were four men who publicized the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a community-based organization of workers in low-wage jobs throughout Florida. The protesters wanted Giant to sign on to an agreement that would increase the pay of CIW tomato pickers and improve their working conditions.Brand said he would not comment specifically on the demonstrations, but handed out a prepared statement in which the company said it recognized the right of organized labor to conduct the demonstrations. “Giant is a locally operated grocery chain committed to providing the best working environment for our associates,” the statement said. “This collaborative work environment results in being able to provide our customers with the lowest possible prices at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet in a difficult economy.” ••Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com


It’s a Giant step for more jobs

Supermarket chain’s Northeast store is its first in Philadelphia. The addition of 275 jobs also had Mayor Nutter in an upbeat mood.


Dough boys

Back when Harry Truman was president, a couple of South Philly guys decided to move their bar-restaurant from 10th and Jackson streets to the Northeast. Tony and Dominic Mallamaci brought their recipes for old-fashioned tomato pies and handmade meatballs with them when they opened Tony’s Place on the 6300 block of Frankford Ave. on July 2, 1951.