Charles Giunta, 87, Italian Market mainstay

Charles J. Giunta Sr. worked at his children's food stands.
Charles J. Giunta Sr. worked at his children's food stands.
Posted: August 26, 2012

Charles J. Giunta Sr., 87, the third-generation owner of an Italian Market butcher shop that opened in the early 1900s and closed in the 1980s, died Wednesday, Aug. 22, of heart failure at his South Philadelphia home.

The family at one time also owned a wholesale slaughterhouse in South Philadelphia and a pig farm in Deptford, Gloucester County, and in the 1980s spawned the butcher shops of two sons now in the Reading Terminal Market.

Until this week, Mr. Giunta was a daily presence at the market, where son Charles operates Giunta's Prime Shop and son Martin runs Martin's Quality Meats & Sausages.

Paul Steinke, general manager of Reading Terminal Market, said "Mr. G. was a fixture at Martin's Meats, behind the counter nearly every day."

Steinke said Mr. Giunta was "always making jokes - interacting with the customers - that would make them smile."

Charles Giunta said that after his father retired to his home at the Jersey Shore, "he went to Italy, came back to the Shore, stayed a week, and then came to work with us."

Though his father "always encouraged me to try other things," Charles Giunta said, "I got into the business because I loved it."

He got into it when he was 5.

"We would go out at night to the livestock market, to Lancaster County," where "we would buy cattle, mostly veal and lamb."

Mr. Giunta made it fun for his grammar-school son.

"I slept in the truck on the ride up. When I went there, it was like a playground without a playground. Lots of animals to play with. Four-legged friends."

Mr. Giunta retired, his son said, "after I opened at Reading Terminal Market in 1982" and Martin Giunta opened his shop in 1986.

Martin's specializes in "30 or 40 varieties of sausage," Charles Giunta said, while his own shop focuses on "all-natural, grass-fed, and hormone-free meats and poultry."

Mr. Giunta approved what he might not have sold in his own day, his son said, because "he always wanted us to follow the trend."

Born in South Philadelphia, Mr. Giunta graduated from what was then Southeast Catholic High School and attended classes at what is now La Salle University.

The first generation of Giuntas "started at the turn of the century at Ninth and Christian," Charles Giunta said, and "my grandfather was at Ninth and Montrose from 1912," the location where Mr. Giunta closed the shop in the 1980s.

"My grandfather had a slaughtering plant at Front and Washington from the early '30s," which the family closed in the 1980s, after slaughtering not only for its own shop but also for others.

Mr. Giunta served a long apprenticeship, Charles Giunta said, because "my father took over his father's business, along with his brother, Nicholas, in the early '70s from my grandfather."

Until then, his primary job was taking care of the family's pig farm - near where the Deptford Mall now stands - spending a couple of days each week picking up garbage feed in Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Though the pig farm is gone, Martin Giunta operates Martin's Specialty Sausage Co., a wholesale producer in Mickleton, Gloucester County, that also supplies his Reading Terminal shop.

"Our parents never pushed us to do anything specifically," Martin Giunta said Friday, noting that the oldest of Mr. Giunta's three sons, Anthony, is a florist.

At times, Martin Giunta said, his father "would leave the shop in the Italian Market and go help my oldest brother" by delivering flowers.

Martin Giunta summed up his father's legacy this way:

"The family business wasn't a business. It was part of our life. . . . Our home was on South Broad Street. But life was lived in the Italian Market."

Besides his sons, Mr. Giunta is survived by three grandchildren. His wife, Martina, died in 2000.

A viewing was set from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at Pennsylvania Burial Co., 1327 S. Broad St., and from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Monday, Aug. 27, there, before a Funeral Mass at 10 a.m. at Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, 10th and Dickinson Streets.


Contact Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.

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