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Lagomarcino clan sticks to tradition


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Lagomarcino's hasn't changed much since it opened in downtown Moline in 1908. That, the good food and great candy, is why it remains so popular. It still has the original mahogany booths and Tiffany-style lamps.

MOLINE -- Hang around a neighborhood long enough, and you're bound to see a lot of changes.

The Lagomarcino family, which has been operating an ice cream parlor and confectionary at the same downtown Moline site since 1908, has seen the downtown through the worst and best of times.

``Things are really on the upswing and getting better,'' said Beth Lagomarcino, the third generation in the business. ``The first upbeat surge was when Heritage Place opened, and then The Mark was really the gift of life to downtown Moline. The new John Deere Pavilion, too, has made a difference.''

Beth's grandfather, Angelo Lagomarcino, an immigrant from the Piedmonte region of Italy, opened his original confectionary on 15th Street, between 4th and 5th avenues. He then moved across the street for a brief time. The shop was moved to 1422 5th Ave., its present location, in 1921. Visitors could buy tobacco, fruit, candy and soda fountain treats.

In the early days, Moline was a hotspot in the Quad-Cities, recalled Tom Lagomarcino, Angelo's son and Beth's father. The area had seven theaters -- Lyric, Palace, Mirror, Bio, American, Paradise and LeClaire -- whose crowds dictated the soda fountain's hours.

Mr. Lagomarcino said the shop was open 18 hours a day, often until 1 a.m. or later. ``The night trade was our bread and butter,'' he said. ``Of course, our business flourished during Prohibition.''

After visiting the theater, people would come to Lagomarcino's for fancy sundaes, ice cream creations and sodas. ``All the street cars came through here where there was a loop area,'' Mr. Lagomarcino said. ``From here, the street cars went to either Rock Island or East Moline. Street cars funneled everyone downtown. Few people had cars back then.''

The interior decor of Lagomarcino's was carefully planned. Mahogany booths were custom-made by Moline Furniture Works. Tiffany-style lamps over each booth were specially made on the East Coast.

Cassini Tile of Rock Island installed a hexagon terrazzo floor with blue flowers to complement the lamps. A stamped tin ceiling was installed. Table and countertops were made of marble, and the original cigar and candy cases still are in use.

The interior remains unchanged today. Walking into Lagomarcino's is like stepping into the past.

``We don't want to change what we feel is so special -- that atmosphere of this place and its old-fashioned look,'' Beth Lagomarcino said. ``We've tried to recapture this same look and feel in our new store in the Village of East Davenport.''

The Lagomarcinos recently expanded their winning formula to the other side of the river, opening a restaurant at 2132 E. 11th St., Davenport, the original Happy Joe's Pizza Parlor. Lisa and Tom Lagomarcino, Beth's brother and sister, are managing the new store.

``It's a whole other ballgame in the village,'' Beth Lagomarcino said. ``Our beautiful backbar came from a drugstore in Maquoketa. We also got fixtures from an old soda fountain in Chicago. The tile floor is unique -- it was designed by Judith Anderson, who had a real unusual approach. She also took a lot of our family photos and had them blown up to hang on the wall. John Watts of Windsong Glassworks in Rock Island did all the stained glass work for us.''

-- By Lisa Mohr (February 2, 1998)

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