I was never in a Greek fraternity while attending Penn State in my younger years, but over the past two years, since the beginning of the Delano Herald Journal, I have enjoyed being the new member of a fraternity that includes Germans, Finns, Italians, Lutherans, Catholics and who knows what else.
This fraternity was sometimes referred to as the Loretto Mafia, and it congregated every morning at the Retro Roast & Fountain in Loretto.
Trading information about local happenings and how things used to be were popular pastimes for the mafia, and so was shooting the bull.
Meeting at Retro for morning coffee began five years ago, when the establishment opened its doors. It ended this past Saturday.
Owners Heidi and Bill Rosati decided to close the doors on the small-town meeting and eating place, and the emotions over the thought of losing Retro could be seen in the days leading up to the end.
The mafia was at Retro in full force Friday morning, most members ruing the thought of having to find another coffee hangout by Monday morning. Finding another place doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult, but there’s more to it than walking into a new building.
The Rosati family, and all the workers at Retro, always treated their customers like family, and that’s not always easy to find. The place was like a home away from home, which was evident by the wedding day photographs of some of its most loyal customers hanging on the wall. Some members of the mafia have passed away over the two years I visited Retro, and it’s obvious those losses hit the members hard. But I think having the other members of the mafia around helped the healing process.
The owners, employees and customers of all ages could grieve together, and they could also take some ribbing and dish it out. That’s what made Retro the place it was.
The Loretto Mafia is like a family away from home. Most of the members are vintage men, but there is a group of women and some young bucks, like myself, who make an appearance now and then.
My introduction to the mafia came in the early months of 2007, when I took over the job of delivering the Herald Journal to local news stands every Monday morning. The final stop on my route was the Retro Roast & Fountain, and it didn’t take me long to realize I should punctuate my route with a fresh cup of coffee and some conversation with the locals.
I remember being a little hesitant in taking a seat at the counter, where name badges list the die-hard mafia members, but, if I did forego any protocol for sitting at the main counter, the guys let is slide.
After just a few Monday deliveries to Retro, I was hooked on the place.
I am a very social person, and I like nothing better than to just sit around and visit, especially with people who have lived full lives and experienced much more than myself.
I don’t know much about a lot of life’s important things, but I always knew that if I brought my problem or question to the coffee counter at Retro, I would get an answer or solution from one of the mafia members.
It’s funny that I only saw those mafia members about once per week, and I really don’t know much about their lives, but I consider them true friends.
The memories of those old guys are like vaults, so I know they will never forget the Retro Roast & Fountain. In saying that, I certainly hope the mafia can find a new meeting place. There is so much more joking around, BSing and teaching I need from them.
In its five years, Retro Roast & Fountain became the place to go in Loretto for a cup of coffee, a root beer float and a good lunch. But there was so much more to the place with the black-and-white-checkered floor and wedding picture-decorated walls.
Retro has had guests like Brad Childress, Randall McDaniel, local radio and television personalities, and who could forget John Ratzenberger?
Looking back, Ratzenberger’s visit to Retro was very fitting.
Of course, Ratzenberger is most famous for his role as “Cliff Clavin,” on the sitcom “Cheers.” Albeit with a different type of brew, Retro Roast & Fountain was to Loretto what “Cheers” was to Boston. The lyrics to the “Cheers” theme song says so.
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
In Loretto, you wanted to go to Retro.