At the heart of Philly’s best institutions are people tying them to the neighborhoods they’ve helped define while carrying on a proud tradition that resonates beyond their own community.
Cappuccio’s Meats is one of several places in The Italian Market that offer a glimpse at living history. At the center of everything are owners Harry Crimi Sr. and Antoinette (nee Cappuccio), who have worked at the shop for over a combined 151 years. Minus some changes, the business continues to run as it did when Antoinette’s father, Domenico Cappuccio, first opened the doors at 1019 South 9th St. in 1920, with successive generations being incorporated into the store just as Antoinette was when she started lassoing sausage behind the counter at age five.
Woven into the tales of family history the building tells is the story of an immigrant community that echoes into the present.
When Harry Met Antoinette
“Over there, by the back steps, that’s where my grandmother gave birth to my mother [Antoinette in 1927],” Domenick Crimi, the store’s GM, tells me as we’re seated in the kitchen situated past the shop’s showroom. Of course, that was after the front room served as the site for his grandfather and grandmother’s wedding reception that immediately preceded the shop’s opening.
Domenick’s grandmother had been working at a fruit and vegetable stand on 9th St. when she met his grandfather, who, with the help of the butcher with whom he had apprenticed, acquired the shop’s storefront. The family—Antoinette was one of three children—lived upstairs until her father took everyone out to Wynnewood, PA in 1957.
Back then, “everybody knew each other. Many came from the same town or area in Sicily,” Domenick says, adding that a few families, such as those that founded Esposito’s and Di Bruno Bros., came from Abruzzo.
For Harry Crimi Sr., born in Atlantic City in 1925, taking over the family business wasn’t a tough decision.
“Tell him about when my father came to you,” Antoinette says, excitement building in her voice as the three of us are seated around that same kitchen table.
Reticent, and prone to letting his wife handle the storytelling, Harry speaks volumes while tersely explaining that pivotal moment.
“Her father came to me. Later, I asked her what she wanted to do. She said, let’s take the business.”
“I just did,” he says.
Besides the role Antoinette played, his love for the job factored in. A trained accountant who handled the books for several of the butcher shops on South 9th St. (there were roughly twenty back then, he says), he found that he preferred the social aspect of the job over sitting alone in his home office. So, accounting became a part-time gig. The same appeal, along with that of a family business into which she was born, is what led Antoinette to leave her teaching job behind after the birth of their oldest child, Harry Crimi Jr.
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