Owners saying goodbye to landmark building

Andrea Rose news@echo-pilot.com
The historic brick building that houses the Greencastle Antique Mall has been home to many business over the years. It will be auctioned off Saturday.

A Greencastle manufacturing landmark will go on the auction block this weekend, closing another chapter on the successful business story of its owners.

Pete Lucchino and his wife, Fran, who own and operate the Greencastle Antique Mall on South Washington Street, hope to sell the property.

 A local landmark 

The site has a rich history in Greencastle, dating to 1846 when it got its start as a foundry known as Crowell Manufacturing Co.

The original structure burned down in 1870 and the present brick building was constructed.

According to local historians, Crowell built traction engines, hand pumps and threshers, but grain drills were their specialty. Around 1877, the company rented out one corner to Mathias Möller.

"He went to the bank and they wouldn't give him money to build his own building, so he set up shop here," said Pete Lucchino.

Möller built reed and pipe organs for prominent Hagerstown citizens, including U.S. Sen. Louis McComas and Gov. William Hamilton, who convinced him to establish an organ works in Maryland.

"It ended up being extremely successful," Lucchino said.

Two decades later, the Crowell Co. went into receivership under the Rahauser family and the Geiser Manufacturing Co., of Waynesboro, bought the plant about 1901, using it to build gas engines and tractors.

A hosiery company moved in later and Lucchino Industries, Inc. began manufacturing patio cushions and ladies' dresses in 1984 and continued until 1991.

 Building business from a deer stand 

Lucchino, who came to the Cumberland Valley from Luzerne County, reflects fondly on those early days doing business in town.

He opened Lucchino Industries at the South Washington Street site in 1984 and hired about 35 people.

By 1986, he had purchased the building, but there was extra space he wasn't using.

"A few months after I bought it, I was standing in a tree 300 miles from here deer hunting and bored to death waiting for a deer to come," Lucchino recalled. "I started thinking about what I could do with this building.

"After having visited one or two flea markets, I thought it would be a good idea to make it upscale —more antiques than flea market goods. And that was it. I did it."

That was 1987 and he tucked the antiques into a portion of the building.

Two years later, the antique mall had proven so successful, it took over the entire 14,000-square-foot building.

"We've had the greatest dealers in the area with beautiful antiques," Lucchino said. "We had people coming from all over the country. It was a really good stop."

Both Pete and Fran ran the antique business, but Fran became the face of the store.

"When Fran and I opened it, it was basically retirement income, but it ended up being so much more than that," Lucchino said. "The business has been very customer-oriented. We've made a lot of friends over the years. It's done much better than I ever anticipated. I opened it as an extra income kind of place, but it ended up being a full-time business. It was pretty cool."

 Pursuing new dreams 

But the business of doing business takes a lot of energy and focus and the couple agreed it's time to put their valued gem on the market and move on.

"My wife and argued about it for three years," Lucchino said with a chuckle. "She ran it and I do all the bookwork and marketing. I didn't want her dealing with it anymore. Besides, I'm 76 and that's much too old to be doing what I have to do."

The property will be sold Saturday, Nov. 23, at 10 a.m. at 345 S. Washington St., by Gateway Gallery Auction.

"It will go to the highest bidder, with the seller reserving the right to refuse any/all bids," according to John Kohler of Gateway Gallery Auction in Chambersburg.

The building is the focus of the auction, however the antique mall is still in operation and the successful bidder could make arrangements with Lucchino to continue the antique mall business in the building, either permanently or temporarily.

"What I hope is someone would keep the antique mall open. It's a great business," Lucchino said.

But if not, there are many options.

"It has a lot of uses," Lucchino added. "A brewery, market ... it has a lot of potential."

Lucchino said it will be hard to walk away from something he's enjoyed for more than 30 years, but he and Fran have plans.

"We'll go to Florida quite a bit," he said. "And we will spend time with our six grandchildren. It's a perfect life."