For 30 years, Geronimo’s on Philip Avenue in Throggs Neck served as not just a grocery store but as a meeting place for locals.
Behind the counter was its owner, Anthony ‘Geronimo’ DiGirolamo, who passed away at age of 54 on Sunday, August 27.
DiGirolamo is remembered as a kind-hearted man with a witty and dry sense of humor, according to friends and family.
His sister Carolann recalled that during her brother’s long illness he kept thinking of others and putting them first.
“My brother was generous, kind man who would give you the shirt off his back,” she said, adding that during his illness he received a lot of support and help from his friends and the community.
His friend Joey Alfisi remembered DiGirolamo’s interest in sports and his desire to build his business into a deli and catering operation after purchasing it 30 years ago.
Alfisi said that what he will remember most is his sense of humor, which included friendly sarcasm.
“He would goof around with everyone who came in the store,” said Alfisi. “He had this saying on the wall: ‘shocker.’”
In the days following his funeral, friends created a flower arrangement that stood outside of the store at 3211 that spelled out ‘shocker,’ often a punch line to many of his jokes, friends and family said.
“It is a big loss for the entire community,” said Alfisi.
Friend Lisa Croce recalled DiGirolamo’s wit, and the fact that his store seemed to always serve as a clearinghouse for community information.
Sometimes, she said, he even would call from the deli to refer people looking for apartments or homes to her.
Croce’s brother Michael created a short documentary film about the comings and going on at the store released in 2009 called Meet Me at Geronimo’s.
The film centered on a particular Halloween at Geronimo’s, capturing the essence of DiGirolamo’s wit.
Marc DeLuca also recalled DiGirolamo’s generosity.
“Literally, anything anyone needed, he was there,” said DeLuca, who worked at Geronimo’s for a few years and said that in some aspect everyone who came into the store was his family.
His cousin Frank Giancaspro said that DiGirolamo got his start working in a supermarket on Crosby Avenue.
The store was sold to someone his cousin trained to takeover, he said.