Tony Silvoy considers himself “just a humble sandwich maker,” according to his twitter account (@thegoosemen); however, to call Tony the guy who makes sandwiches, or the guy who owns The Goose does not accurately describe his character or influence on the South Side Bethlehem community. For a number of people, Tony is the first connection to the city surrounding Lehigh University. For South Side residents, Tony is the kid they watched grow up or the friend they see on a weekly basis during the lunch hour. For everyone who walks through the doors of The Goose, Tony is the guy standing behind the counter at the slicer who can spark a conversation and simultaneously remember the details of all fifteen or more sandwiches his staff of Goosemen and Goosegirls are making at that same moment. Tony makes every person who walks through the deli door feel like family. It’s this atmosphere and the wild sandwiches on the secret menu that make the Goose such a welcoming and popular location within Bethlehem, and the reason most days feature a line curling out the door and along the side of the building.
The Goose was my first introduction to the South Bethlehem community, as it is for many Lehigh students. After moving into my freshman dorm, I discovered The Goose and it became my favorite lunch stop. During my first visit, I remember noticing how at home the place made so many people feel after my first time walking through the door. I, too, felt at home and this is part of the reason why I return again and again to this South Side hotspot.
Tony has always been a South Side Bethlehem resident. He takes pride in the community and cherishes the relationships he has built with his many life-long friends in the area. He grew up East of The Goose’s current location and caught the bus to school from a bus stop West of the sandwich shop. Thanks to a walk home from the bus that brought him down W Fourth Street, the sandwich shop was something that Tony stumbled into by lucky chance. One afternoon his walk home from the bus led him past a man by the name of Mike Corcoran who happened to be renovating a storefront into a deli. Little did he know that picking up part-time shifts as a teenager at Corcoran’s deli would give him this lasting connection to the area he continues to, and always has, called home. When The Goose opened, Tony was 17 years old and quickly picked up shifts working part-time. By the mid-1980s, Mike had brought Tony on as a partner as they continued to grow The Goose until Tony and his family bought the rest of the business in 1996.
While The Goose started as a small grocery store with a deli, it has always prioritized making good sandwiches for the community even during manmade and natural disasters. A car crash through the front of the store in 1980 failed to close the store for even a single day. The following year, a storm caused a power outage; one day later, The Goose’s doors were opened again. In 1983, The Goose began a delivery service that brought sandwiches to the front doors of South Bethlehem. As this business grew, The Goose needed more room and thus Tony moved across the street to the current location in 1988. The Goose also served Bethlehem Steel overtime lunches after morning, evening and night shifts throughout the 1990’s, followed by an expansion of the store for downstairs seating in 2001 and the upstairs Gander Room in 2003 to host local events. Complete with the option to tweet in an order before arriving at the deli, The Goose has truly grown with the community.
Anyone who has been to The Goose knows Tony’s favorite question is “What are we having today?” and most people have a go-to sandwich. Tony himself has a roster of go-to sandwiches. Friday afternoon, his favorite sandwich was a Geuben. By Saturday morning, it would be an Italian hoagie. When traveling to his favorite vacation spot, the beach, his go-to sandwich has roast beef with cooper cheese, lettuce and tomato. Occasionally, a Storm Trooper (meatballs, pepper ham, pepper jack cheese, pepperoni, lettuce, and Russian dressing) works its way onto the list. Of course, this list is always changing as new sandwich recipes are always found scattered around the deli line.
Despite the many changes observed in the deli and the variations in Tony’s favorite sandwich, his reasoning behind why he started in this business and why he continues has remained constant: he truly enjoys “making sandwiches for friends.” His enthusiasm is genuine and his dedication to this task and the community is incredible.
*Feature photo credit: Ashleigh Crawford*