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Specializing in all Food Slicer Repairs and Sales, Hobart, Globe, US Berkel, Etc.
The Premier Knife Rental & Sharping Service in The Greater Philadelphia Area.
If You’re Not Using Faraco “Your Not Very SHARP”
Selling, Repairing and Sharping for over 40 years.

Faraco Knife and Slicer Co.

Specializing in all Food Slicer Repairs and Sales, Hobart, Globe, US Berkel, Etc.
The Premier Knife Rental & Sharping Service in The Greater Philadelphia Area.
If You’re Not Using Faraco “Your Not Very SHARP”
Selling, Repairing and Sharpening for over 40 years.


 

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Over One Million Knives Sharpened, Don't be Dull, Get Sharp

Life on the edge.   They call him the Knife Man, and his sharpening shops may be Philadelphia's last.   He'll do hoes, saws, anything with an edge, but restaurants sustain him.

By Murray Dubin INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

Posted: October 01, 2002

Every Thursday morning, he enters the Dining Car restaurant on Frankford Avenue, walks quietly to the kitchen, takes the old tools, delivers new ones, collects his money and leaves. "He's in and out like a flash," says owner Nancy Morozin. It's one of 50 stops or so that Emory Csikany - the Knife Man - makes daily as he works on the cutting edge of cutting edges, a lone figure working to give Philadelphia a finer point.  Sharpening hoes to handsaws, Csikany (pronounced cheh-KAHN-ee), 61, owns what may be the last street-corner knife-sharpening shop in town.  Neither he nor the handful of suburban knife sharpeners know of anyone else left in the city. The Yellow Pages lists just his store at Front and Rising Sun Avenue in Feltonville. Some hardware stores - such as Bruskin's in South Philadelphia - still sharpen knives, but it is a sideline, not a life's work. Home sharpeners and inexpensive stainless-steel blades have cut the need for knife men.  Csikany's daily grind is literally that - a grinding wheel and a blade's dull edge. "It's not easy. You just make a living, pay your bills. Good years? No, you don't have many good years," he says.  He was not born into the business - he was adopted.  Csikany left Hungary, convulsed by revolution, for the United States in 1956 at the age of 15, with five of his friends. Through a church in Oreland, he found a home with Frank Faraco and his family.  And so he went to work for his adopted father at Faraco Cutlery at Fifth and Cayuga. He worked in the shop and on a truck with a grinding wheel powered by a gasoline engine, sharpening sewing shears and carving knives door to door, street by street.  "There were a lot of knife places then," he remembers. "At Sixth and Rockland, and Fifth and Duncannon. There was one at 20-something and Allegheny, and Kensington and Ontario. There was a guy on Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. Most of them died, or moved to South Jersey."  When Faraco died, Csikany took over. In the early 1970s, he moved to his current location.  "I did it in the truck, too, until the '70s," he says. "Too cold, too rainy. It was just more convenient to stay here, and I can do a better job than on the truck.  "He remembers charging 20 cents to sharpen a knife. Today, it's a dollar or two, depending on the knife. Like he said, you don't get rich.
 And there it competes hammer and tong (knife and fork?) with Faraco Knife & Slicer Co., from Pennsburg, Montgomery County.  Bob Faraco, nephew of Csikany's adopted father, sharpens steak knives, cleavers and slicers for customers in Hoboken to Wilmington, including restaurants owned by Neil Stein.  "Slicing knives, boning knives, paring knives, maybe eight or 10 a week for our prep people," says a customer, executive chef Francesco Martorella of Avenue B. "Accidents happen with dull knives. They do a lot of restaurants in town.
Cuticle scissors to chain saws, Csikany will sharpen anything with an edge. Into his shop come hunters who want arrows sharpened to a fine tip, tree trimmers who must have chipper blades ready to break branches, and martial artists who need throwing stars especially pointed.  He is a craftsman who can make nicks vanish, who can magically rid a carbon-steel knife of rust, who creates sparks when he touches an old bread knife to a grinding wheel and makes the knife gleam on a polishing belt. Back and forth on a honing stone, and then he has a shining serrated lance ready to attack pumpernickel.  The Knife Man goes about his work quietly, without emotion or visible pride, more a hard-working laborer than a caregiver to carefully crafted tools. He talks of fine German and Swiss knives, but what he uses in his Mayfair home are ordinary and "not too sharp." Otherwise, he says, "My wife, she gets cut." His children, a daughter who teaches school in the city and a mailman son who settled in North Carolina, have no wish to continue the Csikany Sharpening Service.
It's not a big business, but he has an inventory of about 2,000 knives. Four mornings, he's out on his routes and back in the shop by 1:30. Wednesdays, he's there all day. Just a little has changed in the 30 or so years he's been there: Men still bring in the knives; there are fewer butcher shops than in the 1970s, but there are more restaurants.  On Thursdays, he goes to the Dining Car.  "I think everyone in the neighborhood uses him," says head chef Larry Thum. "He does 18 knives and a meat cleaver here, but he'll do a place with just two knives. I see his truck everywhere. We don't get to talk to him that much because he has so many stops."Owner Morozin says a saw company a year or two ago wanted to make its mark in the sharpening business and asked her to cut the Knife Man loose.
"I said, 'No, we use him, and we're happy.' They said that's what everyone said."

Contact Murray Dubin

at 215-854-2797 or mdubin@phillynews.com.