Let’s Go Racing! – Philly Area Tracks For Racers

PhillyMan


Let’s Go Racing! – Philly Area Tracks For Racers

You can race some serious go-karts – or even your own car – at several venues in the Philadelphia region. I wrote this piece about them for the Fall 2017 issue of JerseyMan. You can read it on their website here, or you can view the article PDF here. With all respect to a great magazine, I liked my title better…

 

speed raceway cinnaminson go karts

Speed Raceway go-karts. These karts don’t mess around.

Let’s Go Racing!

“Flat out till you see God, then brake.” – Anonymous

If the closest you’ve come to channeling your inner Jeff Gordon is running a #24 car in a boardwalk go-kart at the shore, it’s time to broaden your horizons. If you don’t need to at least let up on the hammer to get through a turn, it ain’t racing.

Philly-area racing fans not only have two high-end venues a short drive away, both of which feature various experiences for would-be racers, but we also have the option of racing electric karts inside a converted retail store. True.

Boardwalk go-karts might be fun for the kids, but you’d get some strange looks if you suggested it for a team-building event.

 

stock car experience pocono

Real stock cars, real racing, at a real NASCAR venue – Pocono Raceway.
(photo courtesy of Jesse Roverana)

Two hours north of our fair city is Pocono Raceway, a track unique enough to have a nickname: The Tricky Triangle. The Triangle hosts NASCAR’s top series twice a year, and its scalene layout boasts the longest straightaway on the circuit. That lengthy stretch would lead to the highest speeds, if drivers didn’t have to stand on the brakes to survive the 14-degree banking in Turn 1.

Courtesy of Jesse Roverana and the crew at Stock Car Racing Experience, you can run the Triangle yourself…either as a student in a 600HP stock car, as part of a team in a go-kart race, or even…get this…in your own car.

The student experience includes an hour of safety instruction before one gets into a firesuit and inside a racecar, driving behind a professional who leads the way to speeds as high as 160 MPH. It’s a life-transforming event, according to Roverana.

“When they walk out to the racecar, their shoulders are down, they’re very meek, very quiet, because they’re a little scared. When they get out, their chest is puffed out, their shoulders are up, they’re smiling. We have them fill out a survey, and their hands are shaking like crazy.”

There’s also a road course for go-karts inside of the famed racetrack, and lawnmower engine karts these are not. They ride an inch off of the ground and go as fast as 50 MPH…helmets required…and races are run with three-man teams for a full three hours. If you’re planning a corporate event, nothing builds team spirit like firesuits and driver changes.

“Every time I sell this to a corporate, they’re calling me back next year because employees want to do it again,” Roverana says. “Smack talk goes on all day long.”

Car guys like to bring their own to race that long straightaway too. “It’s grown tremendously over the last five years. We have a Z06, we have BMW M3s, a whole lot of Mustangs. Every once in a while you get that little Fiat, or a WRX.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had any incidents. They all own a car that is $60K to $160K in value, and none of them want to go home and say, honey, I ran my car into the wall.

“That’s the thing that keeps those guys under control out there.”

 

new jersey motorsports park go-karts

Go-karts at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Not a bad idea for a corporate event.

Millville, NJ, isn’t just the birthplace of WAR-demolishing ballplayer Mike Trout. It’s also the home of New Jersey Motorsports Park, where two road courses host events from ARCA to American Superbike to NASCAR’s K&N Series.

Marketing director Ashley Freas calls NJMP the “Premier Motorsports Entertainment Complex”, and it’s not just for spectators. If you get tired of only turning left at Pocono, you can bring your car to the road course here.

“One of the most common questions we get asked is ‘How do I get my car out on the track?’ Challengers, Chargers, I’ve seen all kinds of cars,” Freas says. “I’ve seen Honda Civics, I’ve seen Priuses. There are four on-track sessions throughout the day, and progressively, you build up speed and go faster and faster.”

If you enjoy it enough, you can become a Driver’s Club member…NJMP sets aside track days where only members can pilot their car through the road courses. Members say it’s a great way to entertain clients, and track days include a superb breakfast and lunch at the Finish Line Pub on the grounds. “Drink some water to stay hydrated, but no beer until after you’re done,” Freas says with a laugh.

But for those not yet of such means, the go-karts here are no slouch. They carry 9HP Honda engines and reach speeds of 55 MPH on either of two small road courses that even feature elevation changes. Like at Pocono, karts include transponders, and NJMP tracks your lap times, with the best time of the day written on a board inside the entrance.

Make a day of it, Freas says. “The road courses here always have activity, you can go go-karting but you can also watch unique and fun racing going on. You can eat at the restaurant, we have paintball so you can do that. We have a pool too, if you get hot and sweaty and want to relax.

“It’s like an amusement park. There’s something for everybody.”

 

speed raceway cinnaminson

Oh hell yeah.

So you are probably thinking, this sounds great, but isn’t this October? Racing season is more or less over. Where can I host the holiday team-building racing event?

The Speed Raceway geniuses are way ahead of you. They saw the opportunities as electric cars emerged at the same time retail stores began to close in the wake of the Amazon explosion.

In the days before the electric go-karts that Speed Raceway uses, it probably would have been too noisy to run gas-powered karts indoors, to say nothing of the collective heart failure that the EPA would have had about the pollution. Electric karts are quiet and don’t cough up smoke, making them ideal to run indoors…which is, as Speed vice president Eric Armstrong points out, a huge advantage for them.

“We’re open seven days a week, 363 days a year. We’re incredibly busy throughout the week and that’s because a day like right now, where it’s raining hard, we’re open. When it’s hot, we’re open, when it’s cold, we’re open.”

And electric karts don’t have to build up to speed, either.

“When you turn on your vacuum, it’s on full power. That’s very similar to our go-karts. They have a lot of torque and they go quick.”

The vice president isn’t exaggerating. When a driver is first let out onto one of the two Formula One style road courses, after donning a head sock and a helmet, the kart moves slowly. Once out on the track, as if someone flipped a switch, stepping on the accelerator suddenly whiplashes the occupant into a focused racer, picking up speed, braking through turns and hitting marks. Speed records lap times, but you won’t reach top speed in MPH terms. Not even Armstrong can tell you what the karts’ top speed is…meaning they’ll go as fast as you can handle.

“If you had an absolute perfect, flat surface, these could easily beat the cars on the highway. But in here, they can’t, because there’s not enough space and you’re turning all the time. You’re always zipping, but you’re never on a flat surface hitting high MPH marks.”

Speed has two locations, in Horsham, PA, and in Cinnaminson, NJ. The Cinnaminson location is located in a large strip mall on Route 130. It’s a marvel of progress for anyone old enough to remember the Clover store that occupied the space for many years.

“With so many retail establishments closing, there’s a lot of big buildings like this, and a go-kart facility like ours really fits,” explains Armstrong. “Five or six years ago, there was maybe ten facilities, now there’s easily 250-plus across the country.

“I guess we can thank Amazon,” he says with a chuckle.

The Speed Raceway experience is thrilling enough to draw occasional celebrities, even from as far as Baltimore. “Joe Flacco and his family come in here quite often. Especially with football players, people don’t recognize them because they wear helmets, until they put their names up on the scoreboard and they say, that is Joe Flacco right there!”

 

speed raceway cinnaminson nj go-karts

Sounds like a great place for your corporate awards ceremony.

Like the folks at New Jersey Motorsports Park and at Stock Car Racing Experience, Speed Raceway knows exactly how best to promote high speed, edge-of-seat racing for ordinary Joes…as a corporate team-building event, or for a bachelor (or bachelorette) party. At Speed, they’ve even built sound-proof conference centers, so the long-winded manager can spend just enough time thanking the team for the pizza to get cold…but the karts stay ready to run.

The exposure has helped Speed Raceway bring over a million racers through their doors in just over five years.

“It allows groups to blow off steam and do something unique,” Armstrong says.

“There’s really nothing like this as an amusement ride. If you compare it to a roller coaster, you sit in the car of the roller coaster, they strap you down and you hold on. Here, it’s similar, except you’re the one driving. You actually get to control the ride.”

If one of these racetracks starts selling Curley’s fries, they may just make the shore obsolete.

 

stock car experience race your own car

When your Chevy can make the Chevy billboard a blur, you’ve made it. (photo courtesy of Jesse Roverana)

The Mark of Excellence

If you’re a big time car guy and like going fast, you might even be able to lend a hand to the engine guys at General Motors.

As Jesse Roverana says, people bring all sorts of cars to race at Pocono Raceway. And some guys even act as techs for manufacturers. Roverana tells one story:

“We have a guy who’s all about Corvettes. Last summer he bought a new Z06. He brought it up, had problems, at 160 MPH it was shutting down and going into fault mode. He went through a lot of things with GM, and finally about a month ago they wired his car up so that the telemetry was going back to Detroit. He came out for another session, same thing happened, they received the telemetry, they made a change in the tune to the cars.

“I have a feeling that there may end up being a tune coming out that is gonna be mandatory across all 2017 Z06s, because he found the glitch in their system. It was General Motors trying to meet the EPA numbers for that car. They leaned it out a little too much on the tune for 170 MPH,” Roverana says with a chuckle.

“We don’t keep any speed records on the drive your own, I think the fastest that we’ve been told is the gentleman with the Corvette. He’s hit 172. You can go on YouTube and search for ‘drive your own Pocono Raceway’ and you’ll find this guy, Paul Stephens. You’ll find all those videos from the track pack of his Corvette.

“How many people are buying Z06s and going 170 MPH for any period of time? They’re not. But we offered that opportunity.”

woodcrest country club golf course

Reading The Green – The Woodcrest Country Club

woodcrest country club golf course

When the Woodcrest Country Club became open to the public, I spoke with Jamie Berman, the marketing director for First Montgomery Group, who had purchased the course. The article was published in the December 2013 issue of JerseyMan. You can view the magazine article PDF here.

 

woodcrest country club golf course

The 18th hole of the beautiful Woodcrest Country Club golf course.

Reading the Green

After 84 years as a private club, Woodcrest Country Club is available to the public…and building for the future.

As she shows this observer around the Woodcrest Country Club, Jamie Berman is clearly on top of the ongoing progress.

“We’re looking to make some modifications,” she says, admiring the view of the 18th hole from the shaded patio. “There’s a deck closer to the pro shop, and we’re looking to extend that around to the patio. There’s a versatile outdoor area attached to the club, and a tented patio area for summertime events. We’d like to add a small secondary event area to the ballroom.

“Just looking to make the club more event-friendly and less ‘country club staunchy’,” she says with a smile.

Berman is the marketing director for First Montgomery Group, the real estate outfit that purchased Woodcrest in May for $10.1 million. Shortly after the acquisition, the announcement was made that the private 84-year-old golf course would be made available to the public, with semi-private memberships available.

It’s been an unqualified hit so far: “People have been calling like crazy. We’ve had 35-40 messages come through in just the last few days. We brought on an additional team member just to be a membership director. It’s managed by ownership now, so if we make modifications to the club, we won’t be charging the members.

“The marketplace for golf now is very different than it used to be,” she explains. “The private country club model isn’t as relevant in this economic climate.”

As Berman points out, Woodcrest is being made over for more family-friendly and affordable outings, both on the inside and outside of the clubhouse. There’s still work to be done—like acquiring a proper liquor license—but thus far they have received great reviews from folks that have held events there.

And the golf course itself is no slouch. In the reviews on golf websites, Woodcrest is nearly always rated as “challenging”. That might be an understatement.

 

woodcrest golf course

Lots of profanity-inducing hills and sand traps here.

The course was designed by William Flynn, which, if you’re an avid golfer, is pretty much all you need to know. If you’re not familiar with the name, Flynn, who lived in the Depression era, was considered one of the greatest golf course architects of his day. Of the 80 courses he designed, five are listed in the Golf Digest list of the 50 best ever.

Flynn’s strength was in designing courses to fit the land they were on, which Woodcrest does, in a location that is hilly for South Jersey. Several holes on the course appear ready to punish a less than ideal tee shot with a rolling hill or a sizable bunker. A recent Courier-Post supplement about the course describes the difficulties of each hole—the tee shot must avoid a stand of white pines on Hole 8, an annoying pine tree just to get within 200 yards on Hole 14, or a sunken fairway and trees on Hole 16. If you’ve given up profanity for Lent, you might want to skip a round at Woodcrest until Easter.

“Flynn had a mantra that every hole should develop its own problem,” says Bill Torlucci, the Woodcrest golf director. “He really gave players something to deal with on every hole. The green design, the size of the greens, it’s a lot of elevation for South Jersey. Tree-lined fairways, well-bunkered, fast greens, combine all that and it makes for a very challenging course. If you shoot par or better here, you’ve played a really good round of golf.

“I’ve been able to do it a few times, not as much as I’d like to.”

Berman adds, “This course has been private for almost a century, so some people were finding it really difficult, because it has intricacies that private clubs have that public ones don’t necessarily. We don’t want to disrupt the challenges, but we want people to come back!” she laughs.

“But everyone thinks it’s beautiful. They’re always amazed at the beauty. We have slopes that are more defined, split greens; the bunkers are so well done they look like they’ve always been there. We were lucky; Performance Golf Management maintained the course impeccably through the bankruptcy proceedings. We were able to open it right back up in June.”

 

woodcrest country club open to public

With the helpfully informative “Open To The Public” added.

Even with the enthusiasm of the new owners, First Montgomery’s acquisition of the course hasn’t been without controversy.

In October, news stories hit about the possibility of a housing development being built on the land, which included low-income housing mandated by the Cherry Hill government. It being election time, local politicians made sure they were quoted heroically taking on the big, bad real estate developer. To read the quotes, one would have thought First Montgomery’s only purpose in buying the land was to demolish a beloved, historic golf course and build a new Pottersville.

Berman, who admits to some frustration at the news reports, offers her opinion on the media firestorm. “It doesn’t look like we’re closing the club, does it?” she asks.

“I know it’s election time and there’s a lot of emotion surrounding this golf course, and I know there’s an issue in Cherry Hill with keeping open space. When they were initially looking at this land, it was always the intention to keep it an 18-hole golf course. There are two extra holes, so there is an opportunity to develop a piece of it and still maintain the golf course the way it is. I think when people hear housing and development, it has a lot of charge to it.

“I’m not gonna step over the fact that we are real estate developers; our main business has been the multi-family housing industry. I’m sure it’s an easy connection to make. But we are diversified, and like to look at purchasing aspects to enhance what we can do in a community. The owners are people with a 30-year untarnished reputation. There’s such an appreciation for these men, they’re good people and they give back a lot.”

 

jamie berman first montgomery group

Jamie Berman, in the newly revamped country club.

So if Berman is to be believed—and she certainly comes off more believable than any grandstanding politician you’ve ever met—this classic, William Flynn course will remain intact. And golfers no longer need to befriend a member to play a round on one of the most picturesque and challenging golf courses in South Jersey.

In addition to making a superb golf outing available to everyone, First Montgomery’s focus is to make Woodcrest more family-friendly. Perhaps even with outdoor fire pits, for events any time of year, Berman muses. Politics aside, both Berman and Torlucci think the future looks bright for this old relic of a country club.

“I’m pleased with the hard work that the startup team put in. We’re booking weddings for 2015 already,” Berman says. “I’m just so proud that we’ve hit the ground running, and we haven’t skipped a beat regardless of what’s going on in the media. We’ve stayed the course, so to speak,” she says with a grin.

Torlucci adds, “There was a mystique about being able to play here. It was pretty restricted, now it’s semi-private. It’s really rewarding for me to be here and see so many people come through that door and that they enjoy it.

“It’s a special facility, it really is.”

And today a golfer doesn’t need friends in high places to see for himself.

 

 

subaru stadium chester

Sons of Philly – The Philadelphia Union

subaru stadium chester

When the Philadelphia Union were a relatively new Major League Soccer team, JerseyMan sent me to interview their then-CEO Nick Sakiewicz. I took some time to talk with members of their fan club too. Fun piece to write, and they gave me tickets and press passes! This article was featured in the August 2014 issue of JerseyMan. You can view the PDF of the magazine article here.

 

sons of ben river end

The Sons of Ben, at the River End of then-PPL Park.

Sons of Philly

In their fifth season, the Philadelphia Union have an established fan base, a fan club as dedicated as any in sports, a beautiful venue, and what appears to be a very bright future.

From the moment of the opening kickoff, the chanting begins.

A couple of thousand fans, in the aptly named River End section of PPL Park, are shouting and singing, with drums pounding continuously. Their energetic intonations change themes frequently, but they continue almost nonstop throughout the evening.

Their enthusiasm is palpable, giving the impression that the River End is unquestionably the place to be to enjoy a soccer match. The rest of the 18,000 here tonight are almost subdued by comparison, as if they are witnessing an entirely different event.

This isn’t to say the other fans are apathetic, of course…it is Philadelphia after all, and any sports team that performs well will be warmly received, as the Union players are when they launch three goals in the Colorado Rapids net.

But for anyone present at a Philadelphia Union game, it’s clear that it takes a special kind of fan to sit at the River End with the Sons of Ben.

 

philadelphia union venue

A capacity crowd at the Union match.

Despite a disappointing first half of the 2014 campaign, the Union are playing to 98% capacity crowds in their shiny new venue.

PPL Park, located in Chester, is an open-air facility designed exclusively for soccer. It is neatly planted along the Delaware River waterfront, with many of the seats affording a striking view of the Commodore Barry Bridge. With 18,500 seats, it’s large enough to feel major league, yet small enough that no seat is too far removed from the action. Fans in the furthest seats can admire the professional footwork of the players.

Philadelphia was near the top of the list of cities targeted for teams when Major League Soccer was founded in 1993. But the insufficient venue became a problem. Veterans Stadium, home of the ill-fated Atoms and Fury teams of the 1970s, caused MLS to look elsewhere at the time.

Current Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz, who was in on the founding meetings, tells the story:

“It was in an office in L.A., we had a whiteboard, and we were deciding which cities we were going to put teams in. Philly was in the top five. We’re starting a league, where do you need to be? L.A., New York, Philly, Chicago, Boston.

“The reason Philly never made it to the original ten was because of Veterans Stadium. It was a poor stadium, headed toward the wrecking ball, the Linc wasn’t coming anytime soon, and we had to start the league in 1996.

“We couldn’t come to a good solution where we felt the team would be hugely successful out of the gate, so we ended up going to D.C.

“The Metro Stars team that I managed, we played in Giants Stadium, 86,000 seats, we averaged 20,000 a game. Not even half full, lousy field, American football stripes, fans would come and say, ‘this isn’t serious.’”

So one of the nation’s biggest markets was not represented until MLS became popular enough to expand…into cities like Toronto, San Jose, Houston, and finally, Seattle and Philadelphia.

Once MLS began to expand, just in case they needed any encouragement to come to Philly, the Sons of Ben were there to help.

 

sons of ben philadelphia union

You know you’re a fan when you haul a big-ass bass drum to a match.

The Sons of Ben were founded by Bryan James and Andrew Dillon in 2007, solely for the purpose of bringing a major league soccer team to Philadelphia. They are named for Ben Franklin, arguably history’s most notable Philadelphian. As member Tim Sosar accurately puts it, “He helped found a nation, just as we helped found a soccer club.”

In a few short months, two tireless guys became over 650 fans toiling for the love of soccer and a city. They lobbied MLS for a team and local politicians for a venue. Scarves, flags and shirts bearing logos were designed, petitions attracted thousands of signatures, and pledges of season ticket sales were sent.

But the SoBs’ most notable statement came in their bus trips to matches in New York and D.C., where they sometimes numbered in the hundreds—and made their presence known as only Philly fans can.

Along with repeated chants of “Philadelphia!”, in New York they bleated at the Metro Stars: “We’ve won as many cups as you!” In D.C. for an MLS Cup Final, the SoBs bellowed “Buffalo Bills!” while sitting among fans of the frequent bridesmaid New England Revolution…a jeer that resulted in projectiles being thrown at them by enraged Revolution fans.

New England lost the match. Philadelphia won a soccer team.

 

kenny hanson Philadelphia Union

Kenny Hanson (left), the then-president of the Sons of Ben.

Kenny Hanson, current president of the Sons of Ben, is unequivocal. “The Union is here because of the Sons of Ben. Otherwise there would not be a team here.” Sakiewicz doesn’t disagree, calling their contribution “massive”.

“They were influential in our logo design, their colors, the snake that’s in our logo is from that focus group. And how the culture emerged. The DNA of the Sons of Ben is in the DNA of the Union.”

Indeed, Sakiewicz—a proud, dues-paying member himself—was so impressed with the fervor of the SoBs that he offered to buy them a beer for their effort when the team’s arrival was announced. It cost a bit more than he expected.

“I wasn’t sure how big the group was yet, because all of this was on the Internet. Is this three guys in a garage, is it 50 guys, or is it 100 guys? So I said screw it, what’s 50 or 100 beers? When I rolled up there were 800 people. Big American Express card bill.

“Worth every nickel. Best $6,000 I’ve spent.”

 

subaru stadium chester

Be sure to say it with fifty “O”s.

Half a decade later, the Sons of Ben are now over 5,000 strong, and with the near sellouts at PPL Park, it would be hard for Philadelphia area natives to argue that American soccer…finally…is picking up steam.

Sakiewicz credits social media and generational bonding for the surge. And the USA’s performance in the World Cup helped.

“We used to have books to go to, the Millennials have this (holding smartphone). On this you can follow every league in the world, every player in the world.

“Did you see the heat map of Twitter? When Christiano Ronaldo scored the second goal for Portugal, which pretty much iced it for us, Twitter did this heat map, the whole country just lit up red. Great graphic on ESPN.

“On top of this, millions of them have been playing the game the last 30 years. The 80s kids are Sons of Ben members, and they aren’t kids anymore. They’re money making, money spending professionals who are having kids. The pipeline of soccer fans is beginning to age and come through generationally. Add into that foreign expats…big Spanish speaking foreign expats. Guess what their parents played and loved? Soccer.

“So now it’s an American sport. In Brazil right now, the largest percentage of tourists are Americans. Nearly 200,000. Biggest single nation that is visiting Brazil for the World Cup.”

Sakiewicz and the Union don’t plan to rest on their considerable success at the gate. PPL Park was built to expand, and they will when the time is right, he says. But the first matter on the front office minds is turning the Union into a title contender, starting with finding a team manager.

“I’m sitting on over 200 resumes from around the world,” Sakiewicz notes. “There are some big names interested in coaching this team. Which is frankly very surprising to me, and maybe it shouldn’t be. With the exposure the league’s getting, games are more prevalent in Europe and South America. They see the quality of the league, what’s going on, the World Cup with America doing so well.

“Anyone who’s been in this for 30 years, like I have, shouldn’t be saying, ‘Well, how did we get so good?’ 20 years of MLS, brick by brick by brick. And bang, all of a sudden Tim Howard’s on Good Morning America.”

 

nick sakiewicz philadelphia union

Nick Sakiewicz, the proud CEO of the Philadelphia Union, in 2014.

A native of Passaic, Sakiewicz is most proud of those around him who have been a part of this thriving sports enterprise in the City of Brotherly Love.

“If all of this went away, and I was down to my American Express card and me, give me the same people and we’ll do it all over again. I’ve managed three other clubs, launched the league with the founding executives, and that was all fun. But what this project has been about is much more near and dear to my heart, because first of all I own a piece of it, which helps. But also, I fell in love with this area and the city of Philadelphia and the people.”

Sakiewicz adds an apparent contradiction that he is confident every Philly fan will understand.

“It’s a hard place, but it’s also a soft place.”

“It’s a passionate place. I’m not throwing stones at New York, but I get it now. I’m a Philadelphia guy. It’s a really great place to operate—if you know how to be a Philadelphian.”

A skill that anyone can learn, should they need help, from the Sons of Ben.

 

Note from Kurt: Kenny Hanson, the president of the Sons of Ben at the time of this article, sadly passed away in 2017. You can read this article about the reaction to the tragedy. It was a great pleasure to meet with Kenny and speak with him. He was a funny guy. R.I.P. Kenny.

The Life of A Jockey – Jose Ferrer

Being a jockey is tough work. You have to stay in shape, find work where you can, and win enough to keep getting hired. JerseyMan sent me to interview Jose Ferrer, who spent the day riding a couple of horses to victory at Monmouth Park. You can read the PDF of the article here.

 

jose ferrer jockey

Jockey Jose Ferrer, on Fiesta Rose shortly before a win.

Taking The Reins

A day in the life of a jockey.

It’s Opening Day at the Monmouth Park racetrack.

It is cloudy, almost foggy, and unseasonably cool for May. But the chill is of no consequence to those in attendance. When it comes to Jersey weather, “unseasonably” is an adjective that most residents laugh at anyway, and so turnout is still high.

The picnic areas of the venerable venue are full of dining patrons awaiting the next race. Some have brought sandwiches, others partake of pizza or hot dogs at the concession stands. The odor of charcoal wafts from the private party areas. It’s mostly adults in attendance, but there are a few kids, who spend the day looking for ways to amuse themselves.

The infield scoreboard shows a replay of the tight matchup in the previous race, where Mello Groove edged Greed Is Good in a photo finish. Tractors smooth out the track for the next race. A truck pulls the gate along the surface to the starting line.

For the third event, jockey Jose Ferrer, who rode Greed Is Good previously, mounts Fiesta Rose, a three-year-old 9-5 shot. Periodically the announcer reminds the audience how much time they have left to place a wager. Finally after growing anticipation, especially for those with a financial interest in the outcome, the bell rings and eight very large animals begin sprinting out of the gate.

Fiesta Rose starts on the inside of the track and takes an early lead of about a length, which lasts until they turn into the far corner. Halfway through the race, the lead over The Slipper Fits becomes two and a half lengths, with Fiesta Rose gradually building on the lead.

As they round the final turn, it’s clear that this race will be no contest. Over the last hundred yards, Ferrer and his faithful steed have pulled away from the field. Ferrer methodically and rhythmically cracks the whip the rest of the way, just enough to keep the galloping animal honest.

It’s an easy win for Ferrer, and he rides to the winner’s circle with the confident smile of a man who’s been there before. He tosses the whip to a fan with a satisfied flair, raises his arm in triumph, and hops off of Fiesta Rose. He pats his mount affectionately, and starts back to prepare for the next race of the 12-race card. Along the way, he pauses to shake hands with some happy and newly richer fans and to pose for photos with his family.

Ferrer will race several more times on this Opening Day, including piloting a 13-1 shot named Light’s Gone Wild to another nearly uncontested victory in the sixth event. Like with any great athletic feat, the best make it look so easy.

 

jose ferrer jockey fiesta rose

On Fiesta Rose pre-race: “You have to have the horse.”

“You have to have the horse,” Ferrer explains, modestly downplaying his skills. “You’re driving a Corvette, I’m driving a Volkswagen, who’s gonna win? I would say that it’s 85-90% horse, and 10-15% of it is jockey. It could be any kind of odds, 20-1, 40-1, you just need a horse.”

He speaks from experience, this veteran who has been riding horses now for 32 years. With an uncle and four cousins as riders in his family, the occupation is in his blood, and more importantly, he respects the challenge of making a living at it. Like the folks who wait in line to wager on the event, jockeys are rewarded for the horse’s finish. But the jockey has to work harder for it.

“It’s not easy, like people think. Some riders make a pretty good living, but you’ve got to get lucky. We get paid by mount, by horse. We don’t sign a contract, so we’ve gotta go there and compete against everybody. You’ve got to compete, you’ve gotta beat them. You do everything you can to bring the horse to the winner’s circle.”

Ferrer frequently compares the jockey’s life to that of other athletes. Like in other sports, the competition is fierce, the effort can be dangerous, and the best performers seem to have a natural gift.

But being a jockey has its own unique challenges, too. If you sometimes yearn for the blue collar days of athletes past, when even the best supported their families with championship bonuses, listen to Ferrer discuss the jockey’s world:

“If the card has twelve races, you could run twelve races, or you could run one, or two. It all depends on how much business you’ve got. We used to race like five or six days a week, now we race only three days a week. There are a lot of places, Parx, National, that on days off…we call Monday through Thursday days off…you can go ride over there.

“We don’t have a contract or anything; we’re like painters or plumbers. And it’s like any kind of business, if you get a good reputation, you do a pretty good job or whatever, people will call you. The more races you win, the more they want you. It’s about performance, how you perform out there. Any kind of thing could put you on the bench.

“But it’s a cool job, you get to meet a lot of people, it’s great to be on a big horse, it’s a big high, you know. It’s like hitting home runs, to see that you came first, your horse performed great. And if people win money, they’re happy with you, if they don’t they’ll boo you and call you names,” Ferrer says with a chuckle.

 

jose ferrer monmouth park

Ferrer on Light’s Gone Wild, another horse he would soon ride to a win.

Asked what makes a jockey skilled enough to be in such demand, Ferrer credits experience and preparation.

“Before the race you’ve got to study the horse. I try to have a good idea what’s gonna happen that race, and then figure out what our position is going to be. There’s a lot of things going on out there. You’ve got to feel the pace. If the horse comes from behind, you lay off. Some horses like to come from last, they break out of the gate and sit back, get comfortable gaining their strength, and then make a move. A lot of horses don’t like to be inside. So you break out of the gate, try to go through and work yourself out, and use the outside.

“I’ve been doing this for 30-something years, they might look the same, but they’re not. That’s why you go in the morning, that’s what we do in the morning, try to learn how this horse performs, how they like to run.”

It sounds simple in theory, but the execution takes skill and strength.

“You’re on top of a 1,500 pound animal, no brakes or nothing, just reins to hold him back from going forward. Anything can happen out there, they could do anything, stop, go here, jump.

“You have to be in top shape, absolutely. Because when you’re on the horse, you’re pretty much on your toes for that minute and a half, almost two minutes. You’ve got to have great balance, your knees have to be strong.”

It’s risky, too.

“You go down, anything could happen, you could break your neck, break all kinds of bones. If you get hurt at the track, they’ll pay you for being in the hospital, but when you come out, you’re on your own. It’s just one of the downfalls. I’ve gone down and had injuries, nothing bad.”

 

jose ferrer jockey

Celebrating a victory with the family.

While the job of riding fast horses is unquestionably as physically demanding as any athletic endeavor, the veteran Ferrer says that his profession does have one edge that keeps them going at it longer than most…that their results still depend on the abilities of the four-legged animal beneath them.

“Baseball player, 40 years old, you’re old. Football player, really old, because you’re depending on your body. But being a jockey, it’s 85% horse, so I’m thinking if I stay fit, I could ride wherever I want. If you’re still fit, you can do it for a long time.

“The challenge for riders when they get old is the weight, they don’t want to lose the weight and keep it down, and the older you get the heavier you get. Now that I’m a little bit older, I try to be in the best shape I can be. I lift a lot, I run a lot, and I do a lot of weights. I like to be strong.

“Why do players hit home runs? It’s a gift that God gave you. It’s about using that gift, some guys, they don’t use it.

“I’m proud of doing it for so long, staying consistent. You want to win big races, you want to win the Derby. But if you don’t have a chance, you move on. You keep doing what you’re doing. The man upstairs gave me a great family, a beautiful wife, that’s very important to me.”

And Ferrer already has career plans for his young son.

“I hope he’ll be a jockey or a baseball player. I love baseball.”

 

jose ferrer jockey win

This jockey’s a pretty good bet.

The Ferrer Report   

Jose Ferrer’s done alright at horse racing: 3,936 wins in 27,227 starts as of this writing (an average of almost a win in every seven starts), along with close to 7,000 place and show finishes as of this writing. His earnings over his 32-year career have totaled over $65 million, for an average of $2,400 per start.

He’s won a few big races, too: three Red Bank Stakes, two Miami Mile Breeder’s Cup Handicap races, the Iselin Handicap, the Jersey Shore Breeder’s Cup and the Matchmaker Stakes, to name a few. Ferrer is one of only five jockeys to have multiple Miami Mile wins, and is one of only three jockeys to have three or more Red Bank Stakes wins.

In 2015 thus far, Ferrer has 109 starts, and has already put 19 wins, 16 second place and 7 third place finishes on the board. His races have earned over $300,000 in winnings.

steve trevelise NJ 101.5

Proud To Be New Jersey – Steve Trevelise

steve trevelise NJ 101.5

I met Steve Trevelise many years ago at a bar, and years later he featured me on his NJ 101.5 show to talk ballparks. He represents the good side of Jersey.

I interviewed him for the Spring 2018 issue of JerseyMan; you can read the article on their website here or view the magazine article here.

 

steve trevelise NJ 101.5

Steve Trevelise, on the station that belongs to NJ.

Proud To Be New Jersey

Union City man Steve Trevelise’s Jersey accent has been heard by New Jersey and Philadelphia residents for many years. And he has no desire to be anywhere else.

Shortly following the 7:00 PM news break, a brief snippet of Blondie’s “Union City Blue” plays. It’s soon accompanied by Steve Trevelise’s enthusiastic voice bidding NJ 101.5 listeners another great evening.

Trev then spends four hours jabbering “about things that drive me crazy”, with equally passionate Garden State natives on the phone lines. Fortunately there’s no shortage of topics. Our politicians alone are a bottomless source of insanity.

At week’s end, the seasoned veteran of the airwaves crosses the Delaware and pulls an overnight at WIP, talking Philly sports from 2:00-5:00 AM each Saturday. From the perspective of a Giants fan. Somehow, he manages to emerge from the studio free of visible blood stains.

Growing up in New Jersey has a way of preparing people for uncomfortable situations. As a Union City native, Steve Trevelise knows timidity doesn’t fly here. But it’s the rare caller to his show that hangs up seething. Trevelise is a genuinely nice guy, who articulates his opinion in a thoughtful way.

Say for example, his take on the NFL anthem controversy.

“The whole protest was ill-conceived. It was a bad idea. If you look at the greatest civil rights marches, Martin Luther King, the march on Washington, it’s all about the cause. By taking a knee for the national anthem, the players confuse the issue. Now they spend more time explaining: ‘We’re not disrespecting the military.’

“If they had said, ‘in every NFL city on Saturday night, we’re gonna hold a rally. We’re gonna have celebrities go on, have players talk about the cause, we’re gonna sell tickets for 50 bucks. We’re gonna take that money and put it into a pool, and then for every case of police brutality or racial inequality you bring to us, that we examine and see that this is real, we will use that money to fight for you.’

“Now you’ve done something, and it’s away from the game. As opposed to football players taking a knee…it is disrespectful, and that’s where it gets lost.”

After Trev tells you what he thinks, call in and have at it with him…without fear of typical ratings-driven condescension.

“It’s really hard to get people to call a radio station. How often do you call a radio station? If you listen to my show, there’s an intimacy, like a ball-busting. We go back and forth, it’s a camaraderie. That, I think, is what makes it work.

“I would never degrade a listener or call him names, because we’re all hanging out, we’re all friends, and I appreciate the fact that you took the time to call my show. I don’t come off as ‘I know more than you do.’ I come off as ‘I believe this, tell me why I should, tell me why I shouldn’t.’ And then the caller calls and says ‘you rock’ or ‘you suck.’”

Ideology aside, the lifelong Giants fan is happy for the long-suffering Eagles faithful.

“I have a relationship with Eagles fans unlike any other Giants fan, because I talk to them every week. For years I’ve been hearing the anxiety in their voices, the frustration of the waiting. I sincerely congratulate them, especially when it’s so easy to root for this team with all their back stories.

“Of course next year, the rivalry picks up where it left off.”

As Jersey as Steve Trevelise is, he’s anything but the rude, surly stereotype. But he understands why we all get a little aggravated sometimes. He did spend years reading the traffic reports.

 

Steve Trevelise radio

Trevelise spent years in Philly repeating “traffic is backed up from Academy through Girard…”

Longtime Philly radio listeners are familiar with Steve Trevelise. He’s a longtime area presence who’s done traffic and sports updates for Howard Eskin, Tom Joyner, Gina Preston, Nancy Glass, and Glen Kalina among others, before landing at NJ 101.5 in 2011. He’s the kind of guy that never hurt anyone’s Arbitron showing.

Most memorably, he was a reporter on the Howard Stern Show on WYSP, as Stern directed nonstop scorched-earth vitriol at WMMR morning rival John DeBella. You may remember the stark contrast of Trevelise’s friendly tone, smoothly delivering sports updates following thunderous segments of Stern ferocity. He might have been the perfect announcer to interrupt the War of The Worlds broadcast.

Trevelise describes his WYSP years as being a “local presence” for a New York-based show. He remembers initial resistance to bringing Stern to Philly…not because of the daily controversy, but out of concern that Howard was too New York for Philadelphia.

He recalls how Stern turned that into an advantage: he appealed to our city’s love of a street fighting underdog.

“What made Howard work in Philadelphia, was getting Howard to talk about Philadelphia. It wasn’t ‘eh, Philadelphia, second class citizens’. He found a tool to make Philadelphia work. That tool was The Zookeeper, ‘we are at war with the Zookeeper’. Philly could buy into that. And then it became, ‘how’s he going to torture DeBella today?’

“What’s funny about it is, eventually DeBella comes to work at WYSP!”

Trevelise has been a fan of Stern since the WNBC years. “The great thing about Howard was that he was so controversial, but he was entertaining, and he’s real. I got paid to listen to the Howard Stern show. Something would happen during the day, and it’d be like, ‘I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow and see what Howard’s gonna say about this.’

“And I love when I’m on the radio at night, and something will happen and I’ll be talking about it, and people go, ‘I couldn’t wait to hear what you had to say about this!’”

 

nj 101.5 studio

Local radio still matters.

In an era of satellite radio and syndicated stars, radio is still local. It’s more than just traffic and weather, but as it turns out, that’s a pretty big part of it.

As a former director for Shadow Traffic and later Clear Channel traffic for Philly stations, Trevelise never ran out of work. But since those days, things have gotten pretty congested in the Jersey suburbs, too. After decades of migration from New York and Philadelphia, there’s now a need for an entire state to have its own traffic problems accounted for.

“I remember from giving traffic reports in the old days, New Jersey was always the afterthought. Philadelphia traffic, here’s all the roads in Delaware County, then New Jersey: 42, Turnpike, there you go. Here’s all the New York roads, then New Jersey: Turnpike, Parkway, and we’d go off. Every 15 minutes, you can turn on New Jersey 101.5 and you’re going to get the traffic report for exactly where you are. I-287, Route 9, Route 35, the Parkway, whatever.”

But daily traffic info is nothing compared to a Jersey-centric station’s impact in a storm that devastated our famous coastline.

“Hurricane Sandy galvanized 101.5 with listeners. I’ve never in my life, including during the Stern show, seen anything like it. I was on the air the night Sandy happened, and I remember Christie came in for ‘Ask The Governor’. They were telling him don’t come in, and he said no, this is the place where I can reach everybody. Because everybody was listening.

“Christie comes in at 7:00, I follow him at eight and I was supposed to be there until midnight. Ray Rossi was there at the time, he was gonna follow me. At about ten or eleven, we lose the transmitter. So now we had nothing but the Internet, and we have to stay on because we’re online. At 3:00, we lose the phones. Ray and I are talking recipes for tomato sauce. We literally had nothing. But people are continuing to call in, because they’re getting us.

“For the next three or four months, we had people with no power, literally listening to us with batteries in the radio. Imagine, in 2012, you’re a radio station and you’re the only game in town. There’s no television, there’s no Internet, there is nothing else but you.

“To this day people thank me. They say hey man, thank you for getting me through Sandy. They still remember.”

 

NJ 101.5 studio 2

Not New York. Not Philadelphia.

People tune in to NJ 101.5 for traffic and weather. They stick around for ball-busting camaraderie with Jersey lifers like Steve Trevelise. To him, it’s a communal thing.

“We’re the only radio station that, when you turn us on, you’re hearing people talking the way you do, talking about things that you care about, in the state that you live in. This is ours, it’s not New York, it’s not Philadelphia.

“101.5 is New Jersey. I am New Jersey. I was born in Union City, I’ve lived all over the state, I would never move. I genuinely love it here. There is a realism, an honesty about New Jersey, and that’s what I bring to my show.

“If someone said to me, what do you want to do, I couldn’t write this better. I’m proud that I get to talk about a place that I love, in front of children who I love. And that they get to see it.”

 

The Comedy Stylings of Steve Trevelise

In addition to his radio career, Trevelise has dabbled in comedy, performing as an opening act for the likes of Robert Klein, Pat Cooper and Bill Hicks.

His first standup act was opening for Gabe Kaplan, of Welcome Back Kotter fame. “Remember the end of Welcome Back Kotter, when he’d tell the joke? That was his act!”

Trevelise became successful enough in the comedy world to open two of his own comedy clubs. The Coffee-Dot-Comedy Club in Sea Isle City was a success…it featured dishes named after radio stars and $1 a minute Internet service in the days before wi-fi. Later he took over the comedy club in the Cherry Hill Crowne Plaza, Rascals, and renamed it Sarcasm.

It was successful for about five years, but as Trevelise says, it’s tough when you’re living on the door. “I went through something like seven general managers in five years. I got guys sending fruit baskets to the comics, I got guys trying to charge me rent,” he says with a chuckle.

But he’s still doing standup comedy events, and now he brings his radio friends along. “I’ll go out and put shows together and do like corporate fundraising, as well as doing road shows. I take Dennis and Judi out on the road, and also Bill Spadea, and so the 101.5 guys are all able to entertain people, which is great.”

If you’d like to Steve and his gang of NJ 101.5 radio costars at an event, you can check Trevelise’s page on the radio station’s website.

Or you can friend him on Facebook for updates…he readily accepts most friend requests, but you have to catch him when he’s sitting at 4,999.

“Your limit is 5,000. Anyone who tries to friend me, they kick it back.”

mart pretzel bakery cinnaminson nj

The Best Soft Pretzels: The Mart Pretzel Bakery, Cinnaminson NJ

mart pretzel bakery cinnaminson nj

I have tried many soft pretzels, and none compare to the Mart Pretzel Bakery in Cinnaminson NJ, a former staple of the long-departed Pennsauken Mart. I interviewed the founder’s son for a JerseyMan blog post, but it’s now published here…

 

mart pretzel bakery cinnaminson nj

These are soft pretzels as God intended.

Soft Pretzel Excellence

If you’re as old as I am and you grew up within a 20-mile radius of Pennsauken, you remember the Pennsauken Mart. And the soft pretzels.

It wasn’t a bad place to get inexpensive clothes, stereo equipment, gifts that you’d never want for yourself, etc. The prices could be pretty nice and I did a lot of Christmas shopping there. Oh, and there was that head shop, too…but I don’t remember much about that…

It wasn’t exactly a pleasant or unique place. It was dingy, overly crowded, and you had to root through a lot of stuff to find anything decent. It was kind of like what an eBay store might look like, if such a thing exists.

The place had one monster thing going for it, though. Soft pretzels.

 

cass pretzel bakery

The new post-Mart sign.

Whenever I visited the Mart, I had two things in mind…finding something cheap and having a soft pretzel. And definitely not in that order. The pretzels were always worth the trip, the crowds and the depressing atmosphere.

There was always a line for them. While you waited you’d look at the pricing board or the newspaper stories proclaiming their greatness, decided how many you were going to get, and whether you’d deal with the salt or not.

Or you could just watch the pretzels being made…dough rolling out of the machine, experienced fingers flipping the dough into pretzel shape in mere nanoseconds, lightly browned pretzels coming out of the oven.

Once you bought your pretzels (no one ever just got one), there were two choices of mustard, one so super-hot it could sear the back of your brain. (That one was always my choice.) For some reason they never had napkins. Many times I wiped mustard off my face with the wax paper the pretzel came in.

 

pennsauken mart soft pretzels

“Okay, we got the sign, you can bulldoze the Mart now.”

One day, inexplicably, the soft pretzel shop closed. It seemed temporary…there was writing on the glass window that said “Closed due to illness”. But when the pretzel shop didn’t return for several months (I don’t remember the exact length of time, but I know I made many disappointing trips), soon there weren’t enough compelling reasons to visit the Mart anymore.

And not much later, the Pennsauken Mart, that staple of my youth, would be gone.

In the years since I have always believed that it was the closing of the pretzel bakery that caused the Mart’s demise. It was a brutally easy connection to make for anyone who was familiar with the place. It turns out I wasn’t quite right about that.

In a visit to the Mart Pretzel Bakery, I learned the whole story from Shaughn, the son of the owner. The Mart’s fate was already sealed before his father’s illness…it had been bought out through eminent domain. The illness was actually Shaughn’s father having a heart attack; a malady Shaughn believed resulted at least partly from the possibility of his longtime, popular business being shut down.

Indeed, it was a bummer for everyone—until the Mart Pretzel Bakery re-opened in a strip mall in Cinnaminson, and longtime patrons breathed a sigh of relief. No one misses the Mart too much now. (Well, I don’t, anyway. I can’t speak for fans of the head shop.)

 

mart pretzel bakery prices

Check out that deal on the Baker’s Dozen!

Not much has changed…except for a better selection of pretzels, including pretzel dogs, those “everything” pretzels that seem healthy, and the truly off the hook cinnamon sugar pretzels. You can still get a spicy or a very hot mustard. The hot mustard isn’t as blazing as the old one was, but that’s probably not a bad thing. And okay, they’re a tad more expensive. It’s not 1990 anymore after all.

The old sign with the pricing is still there, as is the sign that hung up outside the store in the Mart, which is a nostalgic thing for former Mart patrons. But the lines aren’t long anymore…the Mart Pretzel Bakery is built to handle the demand.

Mart pretzels are still always worth the trip, even if I’m no longer looking for a pair of pants that I can afford. And if you think I’m just waxing nostalgic, check out the Yelp reviews.

 

r. fanelle and sons recycling

The Scrapping Life – R. Fanelle’s Sons Recycling

r. fanelle and sons recycling

The Fanelle family no longer owns and operates their Camden-based scrap metal recycling service, but they had a great run…serving the scrapping community from their Camden location for over a century.

I had a chance to interview Tom Fanelle, the third-generation owner of R. Fanelle’s Sons, for the February 2015 issue of JerseyMan. You can view the PDF from the magazine here.

 

r. fanelle and sons recycling

There’s money to be made in this stuff.

The Scrapping Life

Tom Fanelle will recycle and re-sell just about anything metal, but he has limits.

For instance, don’t try to sell him your prosthetic leg.

“One day,” he explains, “Two guys come in. One guy walks in, the other guy is hanging on to his back. The guy hanging on has no legs. The guy in the front is holding a titanium prosthesis, and he said do you buy titanium? It was the other guy’s leg! One of his two legs, we don’t know what happened to the other one. We threw him out.”

However, he did take the gun that killed Gianni Versace.

“After they investigated Versace’s death, they transported the gun up here; this was a national facility, so the FBI got involved. They did the investigation, they were done with the gun, and they contacted the owner because it was stolen.

“She said, ‘I just want the gun destroyed.’ Philadelphia FBI, Cherry Hill, I had them all here, we had coffee and donuts, we cut the gun and I picked up the pieces. I have them here somewhere. Just for the sake of saving it, not that I would sell it or anything.”

 

tom fanelle

Tom Fanelle, carrying R. Fanelle & Sons past 100 years.

Tom Fanelle is the third-generation owner of R. Fanelle’s Sons Scrap Iron & Metal, a Camden-based recycling scrapyard. R. Fanelle’s Sons recently celebrated an impressive milestone…100 years of recycling metal in South Jersey. No small achievement in an industry with its share of mergers and acquisitions, but Fanelle would tell you that’s been part of their strength.

“We have the personal touch here,” he proudly notes. “If someone calls, they’re talking to me.”

The “R” in R. Fanelle stands for Rocco, Tom’s grandfather, who started the business in 1914. Rocco emigrated from Accettura, Italy, at the age of 18. After a few years working in the rag business with his uncle Donato, Rocco went into business for himself.

“He got a pushcart, walked around the streets and collected scrap,” Tom says. “In those days, there was an assortment of things they used to recycle. They recycled rags, they recycled bones, they recycled dog feces, believe it or not. They recycled paper, metals, things like that. After a few years, he had people come on board, and he had two, then three pushcarts. They would go collect and bring it back to him; he was the home base for collections.

“In the 1930s or 40s, they started buying trucks. For I think three or five dollars a day, different vendors would come and rent the trucks, and now they were able to reach into the suburbs.

“Business flourished during the 50s; it was a good time because we were so industrialized. RCA was one of our main customers. As businesses have died, other businesses have come up since. There’s always some demand, even though manufacturing is down considerably in South Jersey.”

Today R. Fanelle’s Sons serves three types of customers. There are industrial businesses like refineries and chemical companies; commercial businesses like road and demolition contractors; and peddlers…the “mom and pops”, Fanelle says, people with pickup trucks who make their living bringing in scrap metal they find.

When asked if it’s something like Pawn Stars, he shakes his head with a chuckle.

“I always use that as an example, but no. The Pawn Stars people negotiate price, here we have firm prices. Once something is identified as being a certain type of material, it has a price that goes with it. Everything is based on market conditions.

“It’s funny because a lot of people come in and say, ‘Well, I can get ten cents more up the street’. Well, so be it, if that’s what you want.”

 

R Fanelles Sons Sign

A South Jersey Institution since 1914.

Fanelle doesn’t spend time worrying about competition. His customers return, he says, because of the store’s good name. The challenge is maintaining a balance between servicing customers and protecting against metal thieves.

In recent years, the New Jersey state legislature passed bills requiring tougher restrictions on scrap metal dealers. Among the new standards were requiring dealers to pay by check and provide daily records to the state of each transaction. Dealers would also be required to report license plate numbers of anyone bringing scrap to be processed. Both bills passed the legislature but were vetoed by Governor Christie.

Fanelle was quoted in the Gloucester County Times opposing the bills. His concerns were the privacy of his accounts and the nature of his relationships with smaller customers. Otherwise, he didn’t have a problem with most of the legislation.

“Most of the things they tried to enforce, we do. We do photo ID, the license plate number, and everything we buy is documented and associated with a picture ID,” he says.

“One of the things was that they wanted us to stop paying by cash. Well, a lot of these people, they’re hardworking people and they work hand to mouth. They need the money today, the legitimate ones, anyway.

“If my competition does it, that’s fine. I don’t just mean New Jersey, I mean Pennsylvania, Delaware, because that’s what will happen. If you can’t pay by cash, people will go where the cash is.”

Fanelle also points out the problem with daily records. “My complaint was two things: one is, are you going to hire someone to review these every day? They’re available if you need them.

“The other thing is that I have a customer base. What if someone is reviewing my customer base and they have a friend in the business? They can go to their friend and say, Fanelle is buying scrap copper from this guy, why don’t you go see him? My base, I think, is kind of private, and they shouldn’t have that unless they need it.”

 

r fanelles sons office

Yes, they get a good look at your face here.

Fanelle does concede that theft is a problem. Over the years he has seen some elaborate schemes, like the Locustwood cemetery thefts that were cited as a reason for the legislation.

“A fellow shows up here one day from a local cemetery, and he had all this brass. We said we don’t take it. He says, we’re doing something at the cemetery, we’re replacing these urns. I said if you have some kind of letter from the cemetery, I need something like that.

“He came back; he had a letter and the cemetery truck, so we bought them. He came in again, and again, over a series of months. He’d come in with the truck, and he was on his two-way radio talking with guys at the cemetery, saying we have a funeral at plot so-and-so today. So we thought everything was legit.

“I get a phone call from the Courier-Post one day; someone was doing an article about theft in cemeteries. He started to rattle down names, Calvary, Cole Cemetery. I said wait a minute, before you get to Locustwood, you need to know, they’ve been scrapping stuff. I said it was a project they were doing.

“Next day it ends up in the paper, over 200 urns stolen from Locustwood. When I read the paper, I hit the roof. I called Joe Vitarelli in Cherry Hill; I said you better get down here. So he came down, I explained the story to him, and they got the kid.

“We were led to believe what these things were, and when we heard there was a problem, we went right to the police. We have to be on our guard, we could get in serious trouble.”

 

R Fanelle Sons 1914

The early days of Fanelle family community service.

Part of the job, but it has its rewards. Fanelle mentions his recent involvement with the S.S. United States Conservancy, in their effort to preserve the 62-year-old ocean liner that once broke the trans-Atlantic speed record. The S.S. United States has been docked at Pier 82 in Philadelphia for 18 years now, but it’s not cheap to keep her there.

“We harvested a lot of metal out of the hull of the ship, bought some propellers, to keep the conservancy able to maintain the ship in Philadelphia. I think it’s been a win-win for both of us. I like to feel as though we’ve supported their cause the past three or four years. That’s a big thing; it’s a lot of notoriety.”

All in a day’s work for Tom Fanelle and his crew, some of whom have been there almost as long as Fanelle, who’s been in the business 45 years now. He jokes about having employees that say 15-20 years there is nothing. Employees are respected as much as customers.

It’s been that way at R. Fanelle’s Sons for a century now.

When asked about the secret to his shop’s continued success, Fanelle keeps it simple and obvious. Treat customers right.

“We go to the end of the world to service our customers. We do whatever we can to make things easy for our customers. People enjoy doing business with us. They’re comfortable with us.

“You can beat somebody and cheat them one time, or you can treat them good and have them ten times. My father used to tell me that.”

 

R Fanelle Sons Scrapping

Yes, we’ll weigh your scrap metal for you.

Want to Try Scrapping?

There is a link on the R. Fanelle’s Sons website to the iScrap App, a free download that displays market prices of common metals, a listing of all of the different types of metals that get recycled, and tips and news stories for people interested in scrapping.

The glossary of metals includes pictures and descriptions of ferrous and non-ferrous materials, but there’s also an interesting list of electronics: cell phones, backup batteries, speakers, and various parts of PCs, including mice and towers, are all things that can often be brought to a scrap yard for cash.

The app also contains forums where people can share their scrapping tips – one poster described his experience collecting rotting mobile homes and RVs from people’s backyards in exchange for the owner’s paying for the dumpster to carry it to the scrap yard. He claimed the work brought him $10,000 in three months.

As if that weren’t enough, the app includes scrapping news, with more helpful articles for scrappers. Stories include information on the scrap value of forklifts, a video with tips for scrapping cellphones and PC motherboards, and trends in the prices of scrap metals.

Interested scrappers can download it at iscrapapp.com.

 

Frequently Stolen Metal Items

Metal thefts have increased with the prices of metal, and as Fanelle notes, often times thefts are related to drug usage. Some of the more common items in thieves’ crosshairs include:

Manhole covers: A CNN Money story tells of officials in Beijing, China, replacing the manhole covers with non-recyclable, non-metal materials, after the city lost nearly half of its 600,000 manhole covers to theft. In May of 2008, Newsweek reported increasing manhole cover thefts In Philadelphia, Chicago, and Greensboro, NC.

Copper wire: copper prices increased dramatically between 2002-2007, so much that a black market formed to steal copper wire from phone companies and railroads. In 2008 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported the theft of a 3,000 pound copper bell from a Buddhist temple; in 2009 the Oregonian reported the story of a man severely burning himself attempting to steal copper wire from a high voltage box.

Cemetery markers: The Courier-Post broke the story of urns being stolen from several local cemeteries including Locustwood; 100 vases were stolen from Brockton Union Cemetery in Boston. In April of 2008, over 1,000 bronze markers were stolen from a concentration camp cemetery in the Czech Republic.

 

Good For Your Planet’s Health

According to the Institute of Scrap Metal Recycling Industries (ISRI), the reduction in CO2 emissions from worldwide scrap recycling totals approximately 500 million tons each year. On ISRI’s website you can find a fact sheet that lists the gasoline energy equivalent of recycling certain materials, and the resulting reduction in greenhouse gas.

For example:

Recycling one car = the energy equivalent of 500 gallons of gasoline = 8,811 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions

Recycling one refrigerator = the energy equivalent of 36 gallons of gasoline = 566 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions

Recycling ten lbs. of cardboard = the energy equivalent of 2 gallons of gasoline = 40 lbs. of greenhouse gas emissions

This isn’t to say you would be able to drive 50 miles on ten lbs. of cardboard, but that doesn’t make it landfill material.

Source: www.isri.org