Frankford Leather Co. is a wholesale distribution business. We sell shoe-repair supplies, shoe-store supplies, and foot-comfort supplies such as insoles, arch supports, and orthotics. It has evolved from a traditional shoe-repair business into more of a medical, foot-comfort business. The business was started by my grandfather in 1950, and my brother, my cousin, and I are third-generation (owners). We’ve been local our whole lives.
In my senior year of high school, I was able to take an accounting course as an elective. Of course, it’s nothing like being a CPA, but it gave me some exposure. I got into business school at Villanova, and when I was deciding on a major, the word back then was, if you take accounting, you’ll get a job when you graduate. I just kept pushing forward, and I applied to all the Big Six and got offers from all the Big Six. I picked Price Waterhouse because I thought it was a good fit. I worked there two years before joining my family’s business.
It sounds like a little kid’s story, but I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter. I don’t know what it was, if it was just playing with toy trucks or seeing the firetrucks when I was a kid, but it was something I always wanted to do.
Once you get married and have kids and start working, all those plans go on the back burner. I graduated from Villanova in 1992, got married in ’93, and we had our first child in ’94. When the kids were young, my wife would always say I couldn’t do firefighting. Every couple of years, I’d ask, and every couple of years, she’d say no. When my oldest son turned 16 in 2010, she said we could do it. He was old enough. And my son and I joined together.
When I’m at work and there’s a call, I can’t go. I’m just too far away. But whenever I’m home, no matter what we’re doing, whatever day or whatever time, if I’m close to home, then we go respond. I’m usually one of the first guys to get there, and I hop in the driver’s seat usually first so we can get going.
At our station, we train every Tuesday from 7 to 10 p.m. We do drills and also do driver training on Sunday mornings. We do a lot of community events. We have township days, and we drive Santa Claus around during Christmas. There’s a lot we do besides respond to calls. It’s strictly volunteer.
In 2011, I took six weeks off from work, a little sabbatical, and went through 194 hours of training to get nationally certified. It was nice to have the flexibility to take off from work during the summer and go to fire school for 40 hours a week.
Being a volunteer firefighter is something I really enjoy. It’s my release from accounting. Accounting and running a wholesale business is one thing, but when I get to spend my time with my son and help people in their time of need, it’s a very rewarding experience. It’s more rewarding than any experience in the business world. When you perform an auto rescue and pull a 17-year-old girl out of a car who’s banged up pretty good, you don’t sleep for days after those kinds of things. Some of the stuff you just think, wow, what did we just do?
Whenever you have a dream or a goal, it’s never too late. Even going through the training course, as difficult as it was, it has certainly been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’m glad I did it, and I’m glad I didn’t look back when I was 80 and say, “Man, I wish I’d done that.”
—As told to Neil Amato, email@example.com,
a JofA senior editor.
Photo: Steve Buonomo, CPA (with son Steve Jr.)