West Pittston pride

First Posted: 4/24/2013

The company Lou Ciampi Sr. founded is settling into its new headquarters in Wyoming. But Ciampi’s heart will always belong to his hometown of West Pittston.

Ciampi, 72, founder of Independent Graphics Inc., was named grand marshal of the West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival Parade scheduled for May 4.

“West Pittston has done so much for me,” he said. “I’ll do anything I can to help West Pittston out.”

The West Pittston Cherry Blossom Festival, set for Saturday and Sunday, May 4 and 5, is a yearly tradition to honor the beauty of the cherry blossom trees that bloom on the Susquehanna river bank. It includes food, games, crafts, a parade, the Little Miss Cherry Blossom Pageant and entertainment, such as West Pittston Idol.

The festival celebrates residents of Pittston and West Pittston, but the entire region is invited, said Parade Chairman Ralph Salerno.

The first festival in 1971 featured hot dogs and soda. This year’s food menu includes hot dogs, hamburgers, wimpies, clam chowder, French fries, sausage and peppers, chicken wings – and the list goes on.

The parade is set to include local fire departments and ambulance units, Pittston Area and Wyoming Area marching bands and a host of politicians, community groups and businesses. The Little Miss Cherry Blossom contest will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday at the festival grounds.

Salerno said the parade will begin at noon at Cenera Auto Parts, march down Exeter Avenue, onto Wyoming Avenue and down Philadelphia Avenue to the festival grounds.

Irem Temple Shriners are bringing everything, including five floats, two bands, their fire truck and motor corps. Potentate Cataldo Saitta is a former West Pittston resident.

“Last year was one of our best years,” Salerno said. “The weather was great and everyone came out.”

Because of the success last year, the committee is replacing the five cherry trees destroyed in the flooding of 2011.

“We were shocked that so many trees survived,” he said. “Because the water was so high, we didn’t think any of the trees were going to make it.”

The festival also honors longtime West Pittston fire chief John Janczewski, who recently retired after 20 years, with its Outstanding Community Citizen Award.

Ciampi, of Ledgeview Drive, was born in Pittston Hospital and attended the former Immaculate Conception School to eighth grade. He graduated from West Pittston High School in 1960.

After six months training, he served in the U.S. Army Reserve and was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant.

During high school and after his military stint, he was employed by Pagnotti Coal Co. as a tabletop printing press operator, printing invoices, letterhead paper, business cards and forms.

He subsequently worked for Suburban Publishing for two years and Eureka Printing for two years. He spent the next 18 years working for P.A. Hutchinson Printing Co. in Scranton where he started as a bindery operator, went into management and then sales.

“I’ve lived in West Pittston my entire life. I’ve owned three homes there,” he said. “We had a small house, then a better one, then we built a new one six years ago.”

Ciampi founded Independent Graphics Inc. in 1980 on North Sherman Street in Wilkes-Barre, as a one-man business printing stationery and envelopes. Five years later, he relocated the businesses to an 8,5000 square foot location on River Road in Jenkins Township, just off the Eighth Street Bridge.

The company is a four-color production house printing manuals, brochures, catalogues and stationery and envelopes. Its territory includes eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

The business remained in Jenkins Twp. until the devastating flooding of 2011. On Sept. 8, 2011, in the wake of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, the Susquehanna River crested at 44.6 feet and the business was destroyed.

“Nobody thought we’d ever come back from that,” Ciampi said. “But we were able to because we were low in debt; everything was paid for.”

The business had $1 million in flood insurance, which was all it was able to purchase, but sustained $3 million in damage.

Employees got right to work and, with the $1 million in insurance money, borrowed additional money and bought new equipment. But, the decision was made to relocate.

“We couldn’t take a hit like that again,” Ciampi said.

A property at 242 W. 8th St. in Wyoming was purchased in January and employees have been moving equipment over the past several months. The building is a former architectural firm and was, at one time, the home of a beer distributor.

Ciampi is active in the West Pittston community, including the Boy Scouts/Cub Scouts and Teeners Baseball.

“I’m a very children-oriented person,” he said. “I love the kids and I’ll do anything I can to make them happy.”

Ciampi and his wife, the former Marianne Liberski, formerly of Hudson, have four children and six grandchildren.

Louis Jr., 50, and his wife, Lisa, of Wyoming, have three children, Louis, 7, Nicholas, 5 and Mia, 2. Louis Jr. serves as president of Independent Graphic.

Michelle Reilly, 46, and her husband, Joe, of Harveys Lake, have two children, Joey, 17, and Jimmy, 15. Michelle, formerly worked at Independent Graphics prior to having children. She now teaches aerobics at Silver Sneakers in Big Bear Fitness in Dallas.

Joseph, 43, and his wife, Ellen, of Wyoming, have one son, Blaise, 14. Joseph is a safety officer for Linde Construction.

James, 41, of West Pittston, is Independent Graphic’s accounts manager.

“I never thought of myself as a grand marshal, but I’m happy to do it,” Ciampi said. “Just so all my grandchildren could ride along with me in the parade.

Salerno said Ciampi was an easy pick for grand marshal.

“Lou Ciampi is really a great West Pittston success story,” Salerno said. “He worked his way up to where he is today through hard work.”

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