Gallo’s patrons could ‘sea’ new faces

After 51 years of serving Northeast Philadelphia, the family-friendly restaurant has new ownership.

Ready to serve: Jim Harvey (left) bought Gallo’s Seafood from longtime owner Frank Galloway. JOHN COLE / TIMES PHOTO

Gallo’s Seafood knows the people of Northeast Philadelphia just as well as the people of Northeast Philadelphia know Gallo’s.

The seafood restaurant at 8101 Roosevelt Blvd. is a neighborhood staple under the guidance of Frank Galloway, but now after 51 years, the business is in new hands.

Jim Harvey, who has spent 39 years in the restaurant industry, took over Gallo’s on Nov. 20. Although Harvey is not related to Galloway, the two share the same vision for the popular family-friendly restaurant.

“It’s one of the best restaurants in Northeast Philly,” Harvey said. “If I was the owner of that restaurant, I would run it the same way.”

Now, Harvey is at the helm of Gallo’s.

Gallo’s originally opened as an Italian restaurant at the intersection of Taylor and Pacific avenues in Wildwood, New Jersey, in the summer of 1966. Frank and the late Diane Galloway embarked on this new adventure by being a seasonal restaurant down the shore, but wanted to ultimately open up a restaurant where they resided in the Northeast.

In 1970, the time had come to open up a restaurant in the Northeast, but the biggest question Frank Galloway had was what to serve the people?

“I got Italian food knowledge, and I got seafood knowledge,” Galloway said.

As he viewed the landscape of the restaurant industry in the Northeast, he realized the lack of seafood eaterys, and decided to go with seafood.

“I guessed right,” he said.

Gallo’s Seafood set up shop at the intersection of Frankford Avenue and Academy Road in 1970 and saw immediate success.

“I started off with no seats in there to 220 seats,” Galloway said.

Recognizing the demand for his food, Galloway decided to remodel the restaurant by providing more seating, but that still didn’t fully accommodate the growing number of customers.

Galloway recalled the great lengths people would go just to eat there.

“It’s amazing, 150 people standing outside in the rain there,” Galloway said. “We were never slow all day long.”

After a decade of successful business, Galloway decided it was time once again to make a move, but this time just another location in Northeast Philly.

In 1983, Gallo’s relocated to its location on the Boulevard, and have called it home since.

Galloway knew his business would prosper anywhere, but thought it was important to remain in the Northeast.

“It’s important to live close,” Galloway said. “I didn’t need to drive far away.”

Galloway has called Philadelphia home his whole life and recognized how that is not the norm of everyone he knows.

“I’ve been a Philly guy my whole life, everybody I know got out of Philadelphia, but me.” Galloway said.

For the past decade, Galloway took a backseat to the restaurant and let his children call the shots.

His children, Fran and Lisa, ran the day to day operations and it continued to see success. In March of 2017, his son Fran had suddenly passed away from an undetectable condition at 52.

It was at the luncheon after the funeral, Galloway recognized how many people his son and their business had touched.

“It’s emotional,” said Galloway. “You can’t imagine the letters I’ve gotten from people who worked for me.”

Citing letters from previous employees who now live across the country, Galloway realized the countless number of people their son and business had impacted.

Galloway even recalled a time he was at a restaurant in Paris with 15 people and sparked a conversation with someone at another table who was from the Philadelphia area who had eaten at his joint.

After the passing of his son, Fran, and his son Michael who had passed away in 1994 of leukemia, Galloway knew it was an extremely difficult situation for his daughter to carry the heavy load of the business.

When Galloway decided to look at interested buyers for Gallo’s, there were many who expressed interest in the restaurant, but Harvey stood out among the rest.

“When I met Jimmy, I kind of felt right away (he was a good fit),” said Galloway.

The two met at the Union League to discuss the restaurant business and a 45-minute conversation helped convince Galloway that this was the right man for the job.

“I made him my number one target,” Galloway added, although there were other buyers who were offering more money.

After months of hammering out details, Harvey was ready to take on this role.

“This is the family business that I always wanted,” said Harvey.

Harvey, born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, has spent the bulk of his career in the restaurant industry.

In 1978, graduating from Father Judge, and spending his summer down the shore with his friends, Harvey recognized the importance of getting a job, but a 20 minute conversation in a restaurant ended up shaping his future without him realizing it at the time.

In October 1978, Harvey walked into Chickie’s and Pete’s and talked with the owners of the business. Before he left, he was offered to start the next morning at 8 a.m., which he accepted.

“I never expected that,” Harvey said. “If you had asked me that next day this is going to be your career the rest of your life, I would have thought you were crazy. Sometimes your career finds you.”

For the next 33 years, Harvey worked for Chickie’s and Pete’s in multiple roles from maintenance, cooking, bartending, to managing multiple of their locations.

“When I worked there, it wasn’t like a business, it wasn’t like I worked for them, it was like I was a part of it.”

It was a difficult decision for Harvey to walk away from the restaurant he had called home for over three decades, but knew it was time for him to advance his career.

Much like Galloway, Harvey decided to take his talents down the shore and helped with the managing of The Wharf in Wildwood.

For a couple of seasons, Harvey was introduced to the hustle and bustle of the Jersey shore restaurant atmosphere, which helped expand his experience in the industry.

After leaving the Wharf in an administrative role, Harvey next took a position helping open up the FOP in Far Northeast. After a year with the FOP, Harvey went into a partnership and bought into the Ashburner Inn.

Harvey had helped reshape the Ashburner and remains involved with them today.

Harvey believes his recent experiences at other restaurants will be beneficial in how he runs Gallo’s.

“I don’t know if I’d be prepared for this, if I didn’t have so many experiences.”

Galloway was impressed with Harvey’s lengthy experience in the industry and his familiarity of the Northeast.

“He’s almost in the perfect place to take this over,” Galloway said. “He’s still going to learn a lot here, but he’s got a good resume to get him pushed ahead.”

Galloway admits it’s not an easy business to walk away from, but knows that Harvey will lead his workers in the right direction.

“Jimmy will improve the business,” Galloway said. ••

John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com