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Lagomarcinos carry on a family tradition brought here from Italy
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Todd Mizener
Betsy Lagomarcino holds a family photo circa 1920 along side three of her six children Lisa Ambrose, Beth Lagomarcino and Tom Lagomarcino in the family's Moline store. The store opened in 1908 and has been run by the Lagomarcino family ever since. They also operate a location in the Village of East Davenport.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Dispatch File Photo
Tom Lagamarcino Sr. stands behind the candy counter in the Moline store founded by his father, Angelo, in a photo dating to the 1970s. Today, three of his children -- Beth, Tom Jr., and Lisa Ambrose -- are carrying on the family business.
MOLINE -- They never met the grandfather who set their family roots firmly in Moline, but Lagomarcino siblings Beth, Tom Jr., and Lisa Ambrosecontinue to carry his Italian heritage, values and lessons forward, sharing them with the community.

The siblings own Lagomarcino's Confectionery in Moline and Davenport. The company was founded by their grandfather,Angelo Lagomarcino, in 1908.

Angelo immigrated in the late 1800s to the U.S. from the Italian village ofLagomarsino (he bore his village's name, but the spelling was changed during his immigration processing at Ellis Island). He came from a family of farmers who lived in a beautiful, mountainous region of northern Italy that was very poor, Beth said.

Angelo settled in New York City and worked as a laborer. He saved up enough money to return to Italy and get married, then brought his wife, Luigia, back to the states, Beth said.

Angelo went to Burlington, Iowa, where his brother Carl had settled, and peddled fruit for a while. Carl later opened a storeacross from the train station, and Angelo decided he wanted to do something similar, Beth said.

"He did not want to be in competition with his brother, so he left and followed the river to Moline," she said.

At first, Angelo opened Lagomarcino's closer to the railroad station in downtown Moline. The business was moved two more times before it settled in its current location at 1422 5th Ave., where Angelo and Luigia worked with their children, Charlie, Mary and Tom Sr.

Angelo's son Tom and his wife, Betsy, carried on the Moline business with help from their six children. In 1981, Beth joined her parents in running the family business, and was later joined by Tom Jr. and sister Lisa.

The current store remains as it was designed in 1918 with original handcrafted mahogany booths, Tiffany lamps, a hexagon terrazzo floor, and a metal ceiling. Retaining the original character of the store and working in the same space as their parents and grandparents did gives the Lagomarcino siblings a greater appreciation of their heritage, Tom Jr. said.

"It keeps you a little more connected. Although we did not know our grandfather, through growing up and living at the store, there is a connection there," Tom Jr. said.

Angelo believed in treating his customers right, and he passed that value on to his children, who passed it on to their children, the Lagomarcinos said.

"Another thing Mom and Dad taught us was to take the time to get to know people," Tom Jr. said. "I tell the high-school kids who work here, 'This is not a drive-through. Get to know your customers.' Dad and Mom were real good about teaching us it doesn't matter if someone is coming in to buy an ice-cream cone or if it is a big corporate order. Treat them all with the same friendliness and respect you want from others. That is so important."

"We can call many of our customers by name. There is comfort here," Beth said, adding that when the U.S. was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, many customers went to Lagomarcino's to be with others.

The siblings grew up watching their father work hard. "We always knew what our dad did to make a living. We saw it. We were a part of it," Beth said.

Today, they carry on the family saga, keeping the business running.

Tom Jr. and Lisa manage the store in the Village of East Davenport at 2132 E. 11th St.Tom Jr. oversees and manages production of candy and ice cream. Lisa also oversees candy production and manages payroll, the front of the store, and scheduling.

Beth oversees the Moline store. She also handles shipping, deliveries and billing. Her husband, Terry, makes candy and hot fudge.

Their mother, Betsy, remains involved on a limited basis, assisting with shipping during busy holidays. Tom Sr. died in 2011.

Beth said the staff has become a second family, and they all work together to pull the wagon in the same direction. "They feel ownership, too," she said.

Their father used to say, "By never changing, we will remain different," Tom Jr. said. "There is a lot of wisdom to that."

"I think people treasure something that hasn't changed," Beth said.

There have been behind-the-scene changes through the years, Tom Jr. said. When their mother, Betsy, began working in the store with their dad, she pushed to start shipping chocolates.

When the siblings opened the Davenport location in 1997, they expanded the candy kitchen and established a new Iowa presence.

The siblings stay involved in the community in various ways, including sponsoring the annual Cocoa Beano 5K to benefit the Boys & Girls Club. Other things they do more quietly, like offering a high-school student her or his first job, and generously sharing the lessons and values that have passed on to them.

A fourth generation of Lagomarcino's now works in the business. Tom Jr. said they are asked frequently if their children will take over someday.

He said their job as parents is to make sure their children pursue their dreams, "whatever those dreams may be. They shouldn't have to feel pressured to take over the store. It is our leg of the relay," Tom Jr. said.

"It is all right if we go to pass off the baton, and no one is there. You know, it is still a fun run," he added.



Italy
-- Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea, northeast of Tunisia.

-- Population: 61,261,254 (July 2012 estimate). No. 23 in the world.

-- Languages: Italian (official), German (parts of Trentino-Alto Adige region are predominantly German speaking), French (small French-speaking minority in Valle d'Aosta region), Slovene (Slovene-speaking minority in the Trieste-Gorizia area).

Source: CIA World Factbook.


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