Maria Francis, Pocono Record
Gary Oney has been cutting and smoking meats, like his famous ring bologna, for 54 years. After working alongside his wife, Karen, and kids for decades, he decided it was time to retire and enjoy what’s left.
Oney sold the iconic shop to Mark Citera and his family in November.
Citera, who commuted to New York for more than 30 years for his position as a meat supervisor at a Stop and Shop supermarket, moved with his family to Pennsylvania in 2011. His wife works as a teacher in Pocono Mountain School District.
Citera’s experience in the meat industry goes back farther than the supermarket — he grew up working in his father’s butcher shop. In early 2020, he mulled following in those footsteps and opening his own business with his sons.
Citera said when he saw Oney’s store up for sale he jumped on the opportunity.
“My broker told me about their reputation,” he said. “So I started hanging outside and inside the store to get a feel for myself about the customers and the business.”
Citera took the time to train at the shop for two months to see how Gary himself operated the market.
“I wanted to see what people liked, who the local vendors were and (get) to know their pricing, really just watching the community there,” Citera said “It’s very close-knit. Everybody knows everybody and the people were just great.”
Citera said Oney still comes in regularly and sits with guys in the back, having coffee and talking shop. “The boys love it, they grew up in the business and they make me a part of the conversation.”
Citera has two sons working alongside him: Christopher, 36, and Jake, 18. Christopher has the experience, and Jake is now learning the ropes.
The new store name will be changed to “Citera’s Family Meats” by May. Citera is working on his brand and label for his own products.
“Obviously we came in at a crazy time and I had to hire more outside before all the holidays, but we acclimated,” Citera said. ”The new business is rocking and rolling, the vibe is good and the customers are happy so far.”
The store hours have expanded and Gary’s is now open seven days a week, with hours Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Citera said he’s keeping all the recipes and the structure the same, just adding more varieties, like “roll-ups, different types of sausage like cheese and parsley sausage in pork and chicken varieties.” He’s also adding pin wheels, beef and pork bracioles to his offerings.
“For the holiday season we brought in some sopressata and dry sausage, holiday cakes and cheesecakes,” Citera said. The shop’s stocked with Italian cookies. Items he thought would sell, “and they did.”
According to Citera, all butchers cut meat, but they each have a different style of cutting. While the shop carries chicken breast, Citera plans on slicing them and making roll-ups and slicing cubed steaks — and whatever else customers might ask for.
“The best seller in the house is the ring baloney, hands down the best,” said Citera. “We’re keeping that and the kielbasa which is all made and smoked in-house.”
Citera said it took him a few months to learn Oney’s different recipes, but that they “got it down.” Citera also plans to continue sourcing meats and products from local venders in Stroudsburg, Blakelsee, Easton and Duncansville.
Citera is still organizing and working on some updates to improve the store and their offerings. He’s making changes and “adding some more life to it,” with plans to include some quick meals and to-go items.
“We are going to be adding sandwiches and more packaged meals,” he said.
Citera said he’s excited to see a younger generation of people also coming in “attracted to the local butcher shop,” along with the existing large base of loyal customers.
“Walking into a butcher shop, compared to a large supermarket, right away you notice the freshness,” Citera said, adding that the products are days out from dispatch, “as opposed to a cross-stock situation where it’s going from one warehouse to another warehouse and then shipped to the supermarket.”
“The main thing is the freshness and the quality,” he said.
— Maria Francis covers local businesses and education in Monroe County. Reach her by emailing email@example.com.