For 90-year-old Mario Figone, the secret to staying young is getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to work at the tavern he and his brother, John, started 63 years ago.
The work keeps you young and keeps your mind going, said Figone, owner of Mario & Johns Tavern, at 428 E. D St. Ive been so fortunate. Weve had so many wonderful customers over the years.
Figone was born in Colma to Italian immigrants Giovanni and Victoria Figone.
I was born next to the Holy Cross cemetery, said Figone. I was coming in while others were leaving.
The family moved to Petaluma around the time Figone was 6 and he went on to attend McKinley Elementary School.
We spoke Italian at home, and I was fortunate that my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Tagliafari, spoke Italian, said Figone. I went on to the junior high and Petaluma High after that.
Giovanni Figone purchased several parcels of land on Wilson Street and in 1929 acquired the lot at 317 Wilson St. where the family house was built, and where Figone still lives.
After serving in the Army during World War II, Figone and his brother, John, took over the former Kolkmeyers Grocery and renamed it Figones. Several months later, the brothers took over the bar next to the store from their stepfather, Ernest Caletti, and named the place Mario & Johns Tavern.
There was a bar in Santa Rosa, Seven Seas, that went broke and all the fixtures were up for sale, said Figone. My folks already had a grocery store and a liquor license, so they said I should go talk to the folks selling the fixtures and see about running a bar. They wanted $4,000 for the fixtures. We bought it and hauled it here. The bar wouldnt fit through the door, so we had to wiggle it in here.
The young businessmen didnt stop there. The Figone brothers also converted the small watch-repair shop next door into a barbershop and opened Figones Nursery across the street in the 1960s. The nursery was eventually sold to Floyd Gundstrom, who renamed it Green Thumb Nursery.