On Karen’s first day, she was put on soda machine duty. Karen immediately thought this isn’t the job for her. Joey Vento then asked that Karen move down to the steak window. The rest, as they say, is history. Karen could immediately remember the orders and keep the cash drawer accurate. On busy days and nights, Vento would affectionately refer to Karen as Geno’s “Ace in the Hole.”
It’s hard for Karen to believe it’s been 46 years since she got her start at Geno’s. In her early days with the company, Karen was very close to Geno’s grandmother, Eva. They would close the shop together at four in the morning and open it together at 10 the next morning when people would be lined up to get their hands on a sandwich. She remembers when her current boss, Geno, was walking behind the counter with his cowboy boots on at just two-years-old. Karen says it’s been a family-oriented atmosphere from day one. Joey Vento believed in running his business like a family. Karen says that Geno has kept the legacy alive and it’s why so many employees call Geno’s home for a lifetime.
Karen says the friendliness of the staff is not just amongst their peers; it extends to the courtesy extended to every customer. This is shown when a common myth is dispelled by those new to the line at Geno’s. Karen explains saying, “There’s an urban legend that if you don’t order correctly, you’ll be tossed to the back of the line. Perfectionists have a proper way of ordering, but there’s no wrong way to get a delicious cheesesteak. No matter how busy we are, I’ll always take the time to help people order what they want.”
With more than four decades under her belt, Karen says she’s got too many celebrity stories to count. One of her favorites, however, came when the actor Frank Vincent came up to the window. He asked Karen if she knew who he was, she replied with a smile, “Yeah, you’re Billy Batts from Goodfellas!” The actor and the staff at Geno’s shared a laugh as Vincent enjoyed his sandwich. Karen also fondly remembers a crazy night when Brittany Spears and Justin Timberlake came to Geno’s after a joint concert at the Wells Fargo Center. They were a couple at the time and people were trying to climb in through the windows just to get a picture of the celebrity power couple.
Never knowing what’s on the horizon is part of the excitement of working at Geno’s. It’s why Karen may have changed from her seven-days-a-week shift to a five hour day for five days schedule, but she hasn’t retired quite yet. When the day comes, Geno promised a big party and Karen will enjoy even more time with her daughters and six adorable grandchildren. With two boys and four girls, Karen is overjoyed whenever she gets to spend time with them.
When asked to describe Geno’s in three words, Karen simply replied, “The Best Ever.” The Geno’s family thanks Karen for all the work she has done to help Geno’s live up to the claim.