During the 1950's, in small towns across America, Main Street was not only the major road running through town but the site of all street life, a place where townspeople hung out and watched the annual parade pass by. Main Street, and small towns in general, have been seriously challenged and even blighted since the advent of suburbs and malls. It's a common sight to watch businesses close, new ones move in, and transfer of ownerships take place. Quite the exception is Rome's Garage and Citgo Gas Station, the longest owner/operated business on our very own Main Street in Martins Creek.
Romeo DiLorenzo opened his "garage" in 1962 after working a few years for a business in Easton. He was born and raised in Martins Creek, just behind his current place of business, and his early love of machines coupled with the emergence of the "muscle car" phenomena was instrumental in his decision to open a service and gas station just a few yards from the house he grew up in. Rome started his business in a smaller building "next door" and within a few years he acquired the building on the corner of Main Street and School Street which "at one time was a the site of a car dealership". The original building, built from re-cycled wood from the old school house on School Street, was expanded during the early years of Rome's business and it soon became one of the neighborhood’s "hubs" typically found in small town American landscapes. Romeo's fondest memories are during the 60's and 70's, when he was not only running his business and providing a crucial service for our residents, but was also a father-like friend to dozens of teenage boys growing up in Martins Creek. It was quite typical to see older teenagers waxing their first cars underneath the shade tree which once stood on the northern corner of the property. Inside and behind the current counter are two rooms, one had a pool table and the other a pin-ball machine and on Saturdays and during the summer and school breaks, the rooms were full of boys. When they got too wild, Rome threw them a cloth and some wax and ordered them to make the soda machine shine or even resorted to throwing the boys out. After a few days the kids returned, the incident long forgotten and Rome was handing out ice-cream bars and cake to celebrate one of their birthdays.
Romeo's business has weathered the changes over the past five decades. He first began selling Mobil gasoline in 1963, switched to Amoco in 1968 and in 1996 the current Citgo sign was raised. Rome remembers selling gas for as low as 25 cents per gallon, and he was a full service mechanic when Ford's, Pontiacs, Plymouths, Chevrolets, and Chrysler were the road kings. During the gas shortages of the 70's he had to turn away people in order to sell his gas to his "regular" customers- the ones who previously determined his quota and how much gas he would be able to buy during the shortage. He describes a line of cars that were backed up to St. Rocco's Catholic Church as people waited on their designated day. In 1974, Romeo hired Mario Capecci as a part-time employee, who still works for him today. Car manufacturers and automobile technology have changed significantly over the years and currently Romeo chooses to limit his services to inspections, brakes and shocks, tune-ups, oil changes and towing services as well as pumping gas that currently hovers around $4.00 per gallon- a phenomena he never thought he would see happen. What hasn't changed at Rome's Garage is the immaculate shop and reception area, the prompt and professional service he provides, a good chance of encountering a "regular" who is there just to visit and Romeo's infectious smile- one which invites you to return.