After a week of bad publicity over the Philadelphia gun shop that has been in his family for more than 60 years, things turn sweet tomorrow for Jim Colosimo.
At 1:30 p.m., in front of 935 Spring Garden St., longtime home of Colosimo's Inc., invited guests from Gov. Rendell to James George, vice president of the Hershey Co., will dedicate a Pennsylvania historical marker.
It honors an earlier occupant of the 19th-century building, where big signs now offer "Handguns, Rifles, Shotguns."
Titled "Hershey's First Candy Store," the marker will begin: "Milton Snavely Hershey opened his first candy business here on June 1, 1876, at eighteen years of age."
"They've been after me for years to put up this marker," says Colosimo, 78, munching on an Ashton cigar in his office next door at 937. (He owns that, too, along with "90 percent of this block.")
"In fact," Colosimo says, "they approached me 30 years ago about making it a historical building. But I didn't want to get involved in that because when you make it a historical building, then you can't change a window, you can't do this, you can't do that, and everything you do you've got to go to the historical society. They own the building. You don't own it."
Hershey opened his candy shop June 1, 1876, to take advantage of the Centennial Exposition. Having borrowed money from his Aunt Hattie, Hershey initially flourished, specializing in soft, chewy caramels. His mother and aunt joined him the next year.
By 1879-80, however, business had worsened, and Hershey began to run out of money. Unable to borrow any more from his family, by March 1882 he had thrown in the towel and returned to Lancaster County.
There, you may have heard, he later made good.
Colosimo appears to have undergone a 180-degree turn in regard to letting his Spring Garden properties go Hershey and historical.
On Tuesday, Municipal Judge Karen Simmons acquitted all 12 activists from the interfaith group Heeding God's Call of charges of conspiracy, defiant trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obstructing a highway. The charges stemmed from the group's January sit-in at Colosimo's store.
The group wanted Colosimo, who began helping out at age 10 in the store of his uncle, also named Jim Colosimo, to sign a multi-point agreement meant to keep guns from falling into the wrong hands. Colosimo declined. He says he thought one of the 10 points required invasion of customer privacy.
Colosimo says coverage of the trial made him look "like the bad guy."
"I couldn't have been here 57 years if I broke the law," he says. "I mean, I'm right across from the police building." He adds: "I've never sold an illegal gun in my life." (That assertion was disputed at the Tuesday trial.)
But the controversy has affected Colosimo's thinking about his longtime business, making the Hershey dedication a bit of serendipity.
"I don't go with all this controversy today," Colosimo says. "This is getting to be a headache. I would have liked to die in this business."
Instead, he says, he's ready to close his store and retire if outside parties, from the state to the city to the Hershey Co., are willing to buy up his properties and turn the block into a historic park.
"I would even probably joint-venture it with them," he says, offering a tour of the block. "I would probably make some concessions with it. I'd close the business. Give them the whole thing."
"I own 923, 925, 927, 929, 933, 935, 937," he continues, pointing out a couple of his grassy lots on the block. "I own everything but three buildings, and I own the stuff in back. They could make a beautiful park here. It could really be a historical place, two blocks away from the Edgar Allan Poe house."
Colosimo says he turned down a $7 million offer from developers for all his properties on the block a few years ago because he wanted $10 million. "Then the market crashed," he says.
"The city would love it," Colosimo says, "to get rid of me and put a park on it. It's a good out. It could work out beautifully."
He doesn't, however, plan to leave the way Milton Hershey did - empty-handed.
"I understand from their historian that he went bankrupt here," Colosimo says.