Jim Colosimo, the embattled gunshop owner at 935 Spring Garden St., and Milton S. Hershey, the milk-chocolate entrepreneur whose first candy business failed at the same address more than 100 years ago, came face to face yesterday - or at least face to sign.
The occasion was the official 1:30 p.m. dedication and unveiling of the "Hershey's First Candy Store" state historical marker in front of Colosimo's Inc.
The hour-long ceremony, attended by multiple officials from the Hershey company, school, and foundation, honored the namesake of their institutions, who lost his shirt in Philadelphia but later became the country's chocolate czar.
It also gave Colosimo, 78, a chance to directly float his recently announced proposal for closing his business and ending the anti-gun demonstrations at his store.
His plan? Have Hershey come in, buy up his "90 percent of the block," and turn the whole stretch from Ninth to 10th Streets, and back to Green Street, into a Hershey mini-historical park.
"I don't have any information available on that at all," said Kirk D. Saville, Hershey Co.'s vice president for corporate communications, when asked whether Colosimo had made any formal overtures. "We're here to talk about the marker today."
But other Hershey officials at the ceremony indicated the obstacles Colosimo faces in exploiting his Hershey heritage.
Marta Howell, executive director of the M.S. Hershey Foundation, explained that the foundation "is a legacy of Milton Hershey and is focused on Derry Township in Hershey."
Did that mean the foundation doesn't do anything outside of Hershey?
"Exactly," she answered. Was Colosimo's best off approaching the Hershey Co.? "I would expect so," she said.
Similarly, Peter Gurt, a Philadelphia native and vice president of the Milton Hershey School in Hershey, a renowned institution for poor children, said the school could not participate in a project here.
"Our deed of trust is clear that we must stay within Hershey, Pa., in order to operate," he said. "It would be the Hershey Co. he'd have to contact. If the Hershey Co. could somehow make it a business venture, they could consider it."
By the end of the ceremony, Colosimo appeared to have figured that out. He buttonholed James George, the Hershey Co.'s vice president for community relations.
"That's something we could certainly talk to our management team about," replied George. "I haven't really thought about it until I saw the article in the paper the other day. So I haven't really formed an opinion on it."
Afterward, Colosimo said, "They're going to bring it up. We're going to have a couple of meetings on it."
Meanwhile, off at a respectful distance stood members of the group Heeding God's Call. They've been protesting Colosimo's alleged practice of "straw" sales of guns - sales to legal buyers from which guns nonetheless end up illegally in the hands of others.
Asked as a group about Colosimo's notion of selling out to Hershey and closing down, they thought it sounded delicious.
"I think that's a win-win," said Melissa DeLong, one of the 12 protesters acquitted last Tuesday of various charges stemming from the protests.
"It gives him the opportunity to retire as he'd like, and, for Philadelphia, it not only removes something that is potentially negative, but adds something positive, like a park."
"It would be wonderful," added the Rev. James McIntire, "if he realized the negativity of his store and turned the keys over to the city and said, 'This is for you and Hershey to do what you need to do.' "