Pennsylvania kielbasa king ends reign after 63 years

Posted: Tuesday, April 17, 2001

NEW CASTLE, Pa. (AP) -- Long live the kielbasa king.

Walt Wasilewski, 77, recently ended his 63-year reign, but he has a standing invitation from the new owners of Wasilewski's Markets to come back and regale customers with sausage-making stories.

Rodney Firmi, 37, and his wife Sherri, 36, took over the sausage shop Dec. 1 after it had been in the Wasilewski family for 88 years.

''The out-of-towners miss Walt,'' admitted Sherri Firmi. ''I'm good at the counter, but I just haven't got any war stories.''

Wasilewski's father, John, came to America in 1907 as a 16-year-old and stumbled into the kielbasa business. Wasilewski started working when he was 14 and ran the business on his own for 44 years.

''I gave them my recipes, my procedures, my smoker, all my equipment,'' Wasilewski said, referring to the Firmis. ''They'll have the video that I had made showing step-by-step of the kielbasa-making process as soon as I get it copied.''

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