2011 Shore Issue: The Shore House

For more than 40 years, the Giuntas of West Chester have been going down the Shore together as a family. This time around, somebody crashed the party: our writer

“It’s not the last,” says Andy’s wife, Alisa. “Wait till my son gets going.” That would be Drew, the crew-cut-sporting five-year-old fireplug who seems just as happy upside down as right side up. She and Jenna start loading cheese into the fridge.

Len grabs Andy and says he’s discovered something that needs to be fixed. Tinkering is part of Len’s vacation. During the course of the week, he’ll repair the coffeemaker, the vacuum cleaner. He leads Andy downstairs to a TV-cabinet door that’s misaligned and advises him how to fix the hinge.

“I won’t tell you how to cure the common cold, and you don’t have to tell me how to fix a cabinet door,” Andy jokes. Len Giunta is an attending physician at Chester County Hospital. Andy helps run a company Len owns on the side that does construction, landscaping and property management.

Giunta Enterprises owns about 30 properties. Len likes to tell people he gets 90 percent of his satisfaction as a family doctor but makes 90 percent of his income from business. By any math, it adds up to comfortable.

Three of his children—Andy, Carol and Matt—work for the company. That’s a dad’s dream, right?

“It’s quite satisfying,” says Len, not known for displays of emotion.

The hands-dirty nature of construction and landscaping, and Len’s work ethic, help the business and the family keep a solid working-class vibe amid the prosperity.

“Dad came from zero. He lived on top of the grocery store that his dad owned, a tiny little corner in West Chester, and he just worked his ass off,” young Matt explains later. “The guy makes a gazillion dollars a year and still picks up trash every Saturday morning at all his properties.”

By tradition, Giunta Shore week isn’t officially christened until the men do a shot of Crown Royal with a beer chaser at Fred’s in Stone Harbor. So once the unloading is done, everyone knows what to do: They hop into two SUVs, and it’s down Dune Drive, past the frightening, obnoxious Utz mansion, to the tavern. The family ambles to the bar. Len orders a round of shots, and as the bartender lines up the glasses, he asks: “Is this your normal week?”

This ritual goes way back, Matt explains. Matt is 30, compact and muscular and intense, with a shaved head—looks like a mixed-martial-arts fighter. There’s a tattoo on his right shoulder: It’s the Crown Royal logo, with the name “Howard” written underneath it. It’s in honor of his grandfather, Len’s dad, who normally would be with them doing a shot, except he passed away in April 2010. Would have been 98. His name was Frank.

“He used to call every guy Howard so he didn’t have to remember their name,” Matt explains.

Then Len raises his glass and says a few words to christen the week. Nothing poetic, just a short and sweet toast to a great week. Everyone tosses a jigger of Crown down his throat. Now it feels like vacation.