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A founder’s legacy

Anthony Lombardi Jr. at Lombardi’s Marketplace in Winter Park. The business is truly a family affair thanks to his late father.

Anthony Lombardi Jr. at Lombardi’s Marketplace in Winter Park. The business is truly a family affair thanks to his late father.

Brittni Larson

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In his heyday, you might find Anthony “Tony” Lombardi sneaking out of his office to chase kids around with a live crab, or even suddenly find a Maine lobster on your own shoulder. He sometimes liked to dump a box of crabs on the floor to let them skitter around while surprised customers jumped and laughed.

There wasn’t anyone like him, his friends and family said, and “jokester” was a word they all used to describe him. Tony Lombardi, 84, of Orlando died Oct. 4 of complications from neck surgery.

He was well-known by the customers at Lombardi’s Seafood in Winter Park as a man who would always have an ear to listen.

“He would give you the time of day no matter who you were, or what was going on,” said his son Vincent Lombardi.

photo

Photo courtesy of the Lombardi family

Anthony and Angelina Lombardi were married for 64 years.

Business is born

Lombardi created Lombardi’s Seafood in 1961, his oldest son, Anthony Lombardi Jr., said, after learning a few things from others in the seafood business. The small business grew from what Anthony Jr. calls a “shack” selling seafood in Winter Park with deliveries around Central Florida, to a large retail space and wholesale company that distributed seafood all over Florida until 2006. You can still visit the retail space, now Lombardi’s Marketplace, owned by Anthony Jr.

His daughter, Susan Biggs, said that her father’s hard work and respect for his customers was the key to the business’ success.

“He would just do anything for them,” she said.

She remembers him having seafood delivered to an elderly woman who couldn’t see to get there anymore, or to people he knew were sick. He gave away free ice every day during the 2004 record hurricane season.

A family affair

He always thought of himself as an average guy, Vincent said, and his success never changed that idea. Lombardi, originally from Pennsylvania, was one of 12 children. His family struggled, and they would grab the coal thrown off trains and sell it so that they could get food on the table. So when he became a success, according to him, his family did too.

“He definitely loved the concept that it was all his own and that he could share that with his family,” Vincent said.

And his family shared not only in the success, but the work — Lombardi’s was always a family affair. Biggs said her father liked to call her his “right hand man,” and his two sons were heavily involved in running the business. Vincent said he can’t count how many cousins came to his dad when they were on hard luck and needed a job. Their dinner table was never lacking on family.

Loved life

And when he wasn’t spending time with family, he was out with friends. He and his wife were known to just show up on friends’ doorsteps when they got bored on Sundays, ready to have fun.

“He socialized to no end,” Vincent said.

He was a member of the Italian American Social Club, and loved meeting with the six or so other couples who were members. They’d cook together and play Bunco or cards, and Lombardi was always good for a laugh, said Tony Bressi, his friend of more than 40 years.

“He’s what you would really want in a friend,” Bressi said. “He just enjoyed people, and he enjoyed life.”

Big love

And the one person who he enjoyed his entire life with was his wife of 64 years, Angelina Lombardi. They met when Lombardi came to her house to pick up another girl for a date. When she wasn’t there, he took out Angelina instead, Biggs said.

“He’s loved her since the day he met her,” she said. “They were one.”

He took care of his wife until the very end, finally letting go when his children said they would take care of her for him, Biggs said.

He was a generous man who took care of everyone in his life — family, friends and even customers, his children said.

“His faith, his love of family and the way he lived his life was an example for everybody,” Biggs said.

Lombardi’s is located at 1152 Harmon Ave. Call 407-628-3474 or visit www.lombardismarketplace.net