The Kwik Shoppe Drive-In, located in Shoemakersville, Pennsylvania, has been a staple of the area for generations.
It had been a Carvel franchise ice cream shop for many years in the 50s and 60s, a place where kids, teenagers, and families could stop for a soda or a banana split on hot summer nights.
In 1968, it was bought by a Greek-Italian family by the name of Porcaro, and owned and operated by the family exclusively. One of their sons, Nick, was 15 at the time and helped his parents before and after school. He graduated high school in the nearby city of Reading, attended Ricker College in Houlton, Maine for business administration, and worked in an office in Maine for two years.
Nick then received a lucrative job offer in Tennessee, but felt in his gut that it wasn’t his passion to be in the “corporate atmosphere” for the rest of his life. Nick moved back home to his family and their business in rural Berks County, PA. He began managing The Kwik Shoppe for his father, got married, built a home, and officially bought the business from his dad in 1975.
Nick has been the owner, operator, chef, manager, and in many cases, handyman for the past 51 years and counting. He says any business owner has to be prepared for little or no time off for months or even years at a time, running errands every day, and most importantly: taking care of the customers. However, getting to know the customers and feeling personally connected to them, after so many years, is what makes it all worthwhile.
Today, The Kwik Shoppe is very busy at this time of year serving, as Nick describes, “fast food, ice cream, and desserts, but without the corporate franchise feel – which I hate!”
I asked Nick why he wanted to own The Kwik Shoppe, and his no-nonsense reply was, “I built my own house, not because I worked for a contractor, but because I wanted to build my own home. The same applies to this place.”
When he can, which is rare, Nick loves to go to the beach and go boating, “or at least watch the boats while mine sit at home!” He loves to chow down on soft shell crabs and sushi, too, but hasn’t yet mastered how to make sushi at home.
In November 2018, The Kwik Shoppe debuted their own version of the popular Arby’s 1-day-only “game meat” sandwich. Nick wanted to compete against a corporation like Arby’s to promote local businesses as an important part of our economy. It also didn’t hurt that Arby’s 2018 feature was duck, and Nick was good friends with a duck farmer just up the road in Hamburg, by the name of Dr. Joe Jurgielewicz.
The Kwik Shoppe serves a duck confit sandwich, complete with a choice of an onion ring, barbeque or pineapple sauce, an Asian spiced Peking duck dog with cranberry relish, and fresh duck fat fries topped with confit meat and parmesan. Nick says the introduction has been highly successful, with not one customer complaint in the past 8 months he’s served JJS duck.
From climbing the ladder of the corporate business world to working with local family farms for more than half a century, Nick says, “you have to be willing to put in the time, but it’s worth it.”