There is a classic line in the gangster epic The Godfather that’s uttered just after a turncoat is given his comeuppance: “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.”
For those in eastern Pennsylvania’s Upper Mount Bethel Township, it is now possible to take home some cannoli and a gun from just one shop. Visitors can even purchase some freshly smoked meat, which is prepared on the premises. And, as you’ve probably guessed, this isn’t some supermarket chain but rather a true “family business”—just not the kind of family from the aforementioned film.
For Jim Comunale, his business is about the melding of two passions: Collecting quality firearms and preparing quality meats and other specialty foods. At Comunale’s Italian Market and Gun Shop, visitors can check out new and used firearms—including some that are part of Jim’s personal collection—and also pick up fresh meats, cheeses, and other delicacies that are sure to tempt the tastebuds.
“Firearms and food might seem an odd mix, but Comunale’s unique deli and gun shop endeavor actually started out as a furniture and firearms business, which isn’t any less strange,” said U.S. & Texas LawShield Executive Director Peter J. Hermosa. “For about 17 years, Comunale and his wife Desiree ran one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the area. But after the economic downturn of 2008, locals weren’t buying new beds, desks, or dining room sets; they were buying guns.”
“My brother had a small business selling guns, and it started with that,” says Comunale. “Even as we were getting out of furniture, we were selling firearms and realized that the business had potential.”
And the Comunale family had just the right space for two shops to co-exist under a single roof.
“We have a good setup for it, as our family owns the 22,000-square-foot strip mall that has a hardware store and limousine company on either side of us,” Comunale said. “We have a total of 6,500 square feet, so it allows us plenty of room for both our specialty foods and our firearms.”
With so much floor space, the shop can even cater events for up to 80 people, including rehearsal dinners and birthday parties.
The diverse offerings found at Comunale’s Italian Market and Gun Shop helped it find its niche, which has been especially fortuitous in a decade that has seen other gun shops come and go. Given a political climate that has been unwelcoming to firearms, Comunale says it’s no surprise gun shops have a hard time surviving.
“We keep our head up and keep swinging, but by being unique, it’s like we brought water to the desert,” he says.
For Comunale, running the shop has been like finally finding his life’s calling. He has a degree in food and restaurant management; his wife’s family had owned a restaurant. Together, the couple decided it was time to bring a real old-school Italian butcher to the community. Providing quality and authentic tastes was always the goal, so many of the recipes are family specialties—including their ring bologna and sausages.
“We see this as a dying art: So many other butchers got old and their kids didn’t want to take over the family business, so we’re happy to bring that old style back and our customers love us,” he says. “We don’t sell pre-packaged meats of any kind. We make a lot of what we sell, including the pepperoni and teriyaki. We also make our mozzarella cheese and grind our own burgers.”
The store’s inclusion of firearms stems from Comunale’s other passion.
“There isn’t a lot of money in selling guns, even under eight years of having someone so hostile to guns in the White House,” Comunale says. “But I’ve been collecting for more than 30 years and this is a way for me to feed my addiction of collecting firearms.”
Running a store that’s two shops in one doesn’t leave a lot of time for Comunale to hit the range or even get to gun shows all that often, so the firearm component allows him to be around what he loves. And now that his teenage children help out at the shop, he gets to spend more time with them as they learn the family business.
There is still some concern that new laws could make it harder for gun owners and the gun shop. But for the near future, Comunale doesn’t worry that sales of the firearms could slow with a Republican president in the White House—and he didn’t consider President Obama the great gun salesman that others did.
“No, it was a hostile government and it made our job harder,” he says. “If anything, it could be easier for those with an interest to exercise their Second Amendment rights now. But it isn’t getting easier in other ways.”
Comunale feels that Facebook and other digital platforms make it increasingly difficult for him to promote even the Italian market half of his business online.
“We can’t advertise the food business because we sell guns in the shop, so Facebook limits what we can do,” he explains. “I don’t understand how a publicly traded company can leave money on the table and turn down our ads. This is a direction that the country is headed that needs to change. People should be able to run their shop and sell what they want. I am sorry if that offends some people, but I don’t mince words.”
His words might not be minced, but the meat sure is—and Comunale invites those who want either food or firearms to come visit his dual-purpose shop. — Peter Suciu, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield Blog