Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Three Kielbasi Kings of Shenandoah

Kielbasi can be spelled many different ways, but one thing is for sure, there are three Kings of Kielbasi in Shenandoah.

By Megan A. Hepler

The 12th Shenandoah Kielbasi Festival, taking place this weekend, is something of a tradition for many in the area and beyond. The local celebrities known as the Three Kielbasi Kings will be in attendance. Mark Kowalonek of Kowalonek’s Kielbasy Shop, David Lukashunas of Lucky’s Corner Deli & Kielbasi Shop, and Mike Stanakis of Capitol Food Market are those three “kings.” While the focus is usually on the festival and kielbasi, the question arises…Who are the Three Keilbasi Kings and how did they get their start in the business?

Make sure you stop by the Annual Kielbasi Festival in Shenandoah this Saturday.

David Lukashunas
David “Dave” Lukashunas grew up in Shenandoah Heights to a family that struggled to make ends meet. His father, Joseph, was injured during WWII and later became paralyzed. Lukashunas was the youngest of seven children and described himself as a go getter. He began working with his own paper route, which grew to include 268 homes. He also learned to do machine work, at the age of nine, in Lewis Hoffman’s shop. As a teen, he worked for Antz Refrigeration Service. All he did, so that he could help provide a little more income for his family.

Lukashunas graduated from Cardinal Brennan High School in 1981. Many of his siblings moved away from home after finishing school, but he stayed close to home and helped take care of his parents. He continued his career at Antz Refrigeration Service, worked up to seventy hours a week, and traveled out of state on jobs. He later worked for the Shenandoah Municipal Authority in 1987. He met Janet Saroka, a produce manager at a Boyer’s Market not far from the Antz store in Shenandoah. They married in 1986. They have a daughter, Janette, who is a 2018 Alvernia University alumna. Lukashunas began learning how to cook at a young age. He learned by following his mother, Emily Goldeck, around the kitchen at his grandmother’s bar (located at the current West Street Pub). He began making and selling jelly pies while delivering paper. Later, Lukashunas began experimenting with recipes. He and his brother, John, had planned to start their own business. Sadly, John passed away and after the loss of his brother, Lukashunas thought his dream of owning a business had ended.

In 1998, he and his wife took a chance and opened a corner deli on Centre Street. They built a little play room for their daughter, so that Janet could also work in the shop. Their business flourished, and they outgrew their little deli within ten years. In 2007, they moved the business to a new location on 720 West Centre Street in Shenandoah. Lukashunas explained that he had always wanted to run a business. He has built himself a small empire since he began the small corner deli. Today, Lucky’s Corner Deli & Kielbasi Shop exists in the new 4,000 square foot building. It consists of a drive-thru, shop, and restaurant. In addition, he owns approximately fifteen rental properties.

Lukashunas is an active man and in addition to owning a business, he also enjoys hunting, fishing, and working on his cabin during weekends. He has been a member of several clubs and organizations: Frackville Lodge #737 F&AM Masonic Lodge, The Caldwell Consistory (32nd Degree Mason), Rajah Shrine of Reading, Roaring Creek Forest Preserve, Shenandoah Fish and Game Club, East End Fish and Game Club, Pennsylvania Association of Meat Processors (PAMP), and others. He works at the Shenandoah Valley School District full time as the Facilities Director, Maintenance Supervisor, and the Safety & Security Administrator. He is also chairman of the Physical Security Schools Coalition.

Lukashunas stated, “I have a lot of different things I like. I like to help kids a lot. I like to see them have nice things.” He explained that he wants to see children have a better life than he had. Many of the organizations he belongs to help support children in need.

Lukashunas also hinted at something bigger in the works, possibly something involving county politics. Time will reveal what services Lukashunas will further provide to the community.

Mike Stanakis

Mike Stanakis lived in Shenandoah until the age of five, when his family moved to Ringtown. He grew up tagging along behind his two older brothers. He enjoyed the outdoors: catching snakes and crayfish. As a child, he worked on Barron Hetherington’s Farm (B & R Farms) in Ringtown, picking vegetables and bailing hay.

Stanakis’ mother bought the Capitol Food Market from its previous owner in the 1990s and chose to keep the original name. The store is still located at 102 East Washington Street in Shenandoah. Stanakis remembered that when he was nine years old, he worked in the shop after school. He, his mother, father, and brother Robert “Bob” originally ran the store together.

“I got off the bus in Shenandoah. Worked, cleaning up for two hours,” Stanakis said.

During Stanakis’ junior and senior year in high school, Stanakis attended the Schuylkill Technology Center in Marlin, where he learned to weld. In 1998, he graduated from North Schuylkill High School. He planned to go to Penn Tech to continue becoming a welder, but instead remained home and helped his mother run the shop.

Today, Stanakis spends much of his time maintaining and running the business six days a week. He shows humility about his life and work. At Capitol Food Market, Stanakis now works alongside his mother, girlfriend, and other employees. Stanakis is also a father of three: Hunter Teter, Lily Stanakis, and Cole Stanakis. He enjoys spending his spare time outdoors and occasionally fishing.

Mark Paul Kowalonek
(Submitted by Jessica (Kowalonek) Hannis)

Mark was born on July 10, 1956 to Paul Kowalonek and Dorothy (Gobster) Kowalonek. He has two younger brothers, Joe and Tom. He was always athletic as a child and was involved in many sports throughout his youth. Mark is a 1974 graduate of Shenandoah Valley High School. In 2008, he was inducted into the Shenandoah Valley Hall of Fame. He then went on to further his education and play Football at Villanova University, graduating in 1978.

Mark has been married to Linda (Posivak) Kowalonek for over 35 years. They have three children, Jillian, Jessica, and Luke.

On March 8, 1911, Mark’s grandfather started the business on Columbus and Chestnut Streets in Shenandoah. The family homestead and the original location was connected, making the entire family part of the business. From aunts and uncles to brothers and cousins, everyone took part at some point or another. Mark was always involved from a young age up on through his adulthood. In 1985, he and his father, Paul, opened the current business location at 332 South Main Street. Since then, Mark, his wife, Linda, and their children, Jessica and Luke, alongside a staff of dedicated employees. They strive to continue on with the original product’s authentic old-fashioned goodness, while moving forward with technology and innovation to bring forth new products.

Mark is a big supporter of his local community, an active member of Downtown Shenandoah Inc, as well as the Shenandoah Chamber of Commerce. He is a member of the American Association of Meat Processors (AAMP) and the Pennsylvania Association of Meat Processers (PAMP). He served as president of PAMP from 2010-2012.

Mark enjoys being with his family especially his grandchildren. He is an avid Philadelphia Eagles and Villanova Basketball fan. Mark’s hope for the future is for his family’s tradition to continue to grow, he looks forward to the continued patronage of his customers for many years to come.

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