By Dan Defonte
This story is about my father, Nick Defonte, who left his hometown of Mori di Bari, Italy, to come to America. After arriving at Ellis Island with visions of a better life for himself, he settled in Brooklyn like many other Italian immigrants.
Work and jobs were scarce and my father took whatever came along. He worked on the railroad, labored at a coconut factory, loaded trucks and took any job he could find. One day after doing this for almost two years, a friend told him about a long shore men’s job that required you to “shape up” everyday in hope of getting selected to work. Life was difficult and after a long days work he would return home to do his own cooking, cleaning and other necessary chores.
During that time there was a man named Brooklyn who rented a store where the men “shaping up” would spend time waiting to get selected to work. Brooklyn decorated the place with a couple of tables and chairs where the shapers would play cards and drink black coffee. Brooklyn supplied the cards and coffee and a few other sundries.
Then one day Brooklyn approached my father and the future for three generations of Defonte’s would be cast. Brooklyn asked my father if he would like to buy the store for $100.00. At first he refused, but then after Brooklyn begged my father, telling him that he had to leave town (he never gave a reason why) my father decided since he wasn’t shaping up much, $100.00 was not that much to lose if things did not work out and he accepted the offer.
Shortly after taking over the store many workers asked my father if he could start making food and that is how he had the idea of starting a “sandwich shop.” The rest is Defonte’s History!!!!