Adventureland has been a Long Island institution since 1962; providing a safe place for generations of families to spend time together and to make memories has been the goal of the Farmingdale amusement park since its inception. Although many Long Islanders are familiar with the park’s classic rides, tasty treats and annual traditions like Pumpkin Park and fundraising nights, only few were lucky enough to know one of the men behind the Adventureland we know and love.
Tony Gentile was many things; a risk taking businessman, an apprenticed butcher, a New Yorker from Brooklyn just to name a few. However, first and foremost, he was a family man. The father of 5, grandfather of 17, married Vivian, the love of his life, after they met in business school. Tony began a lifelong journey into the business world, with nothing but the support of his family and friends. His first job was as a butcher in Brooklyn. By the time he was a young parent, he and his two younger brothers eventually outgrew the small butcher store they worked in and decided to pursue the opportunities in the Brooklyn meat market. Soon after however, the grueling hours, the long commute and the changing atmosphere of the meat industry caused Tony and his brother Johnny to answer an ad in the paper that read “Fast Food Restaurant For Sale at a Local Amusement Park.” Along with their dear friends and business partners, Peter Amoruso and Dominic Cosola, this partnership purchased what is now the Adventureland Restaurant in the late 1970s. Despite not having any experience in the restaurant industry, the foursome knew they had what it takes to run a successful business together.
Tony was able to use his background in accounting to run and operate the financial end of the restaurant, while Johnny and Pete oversaw the day to day operations of the business and staff, which they continue to do today. In the early 1980s the opportunity arose to expand their involvement and invest in the running of the entire amusement park. The situation of the park was as grim as when the four man partnership took over the restaurant. They decided this was a rare but wonderful opportunity; the restaurant had turned into a healthy business and they knew they were good partners. It was decided that Tony would manage the park, and Johnny and Pete would run the restaurant.
Fast forward to the 1990s; Adventureland is establishing itself as a local landmark with new and innovative rides, live music and new games. During this time Tony and his team created community events like Pumpkin Park, designated as a safe Halloween event for Long Island families, developed philanthropic relationships with local nonprofits like The Helen Keller School and became more and more involved with community groups like Boy Scouts & Girl Scouts and Nassau-Suffolk Services for Autism. The Adventureland team decides to take on new business ventures in family entertainment, and with the help of long time associates Chip Cleary and Udo Stork, they build Splish Splash and Bullwinkle’s (now Boomers), both of which were sold in 1999.
Tony Gentile left behind a legacy that millions of Long Islanders continue to be a part of today. Adventureland, Splish Splash and Bullwinkle’s were founded on the ideals of family fun close to home. His philanthropy in the Long Island community continues through Adventureland and the Helping Hands Foundation. Today, the children and grandchildren of the successful partnership are moving Adventureland forward and continue to bring the local landmark to the next level of Long Island family fun.
Tony was a successful businessman because he took chances and trusted in the honesty of people, but he was a great businessman because he was driven to succeed for the benefit of his family, friends and the community. He wanted to give back to the community and people that gave so much to him. That drive, passion and integrity are what the Helping Hands Foundation’s Scholarship recipients embody. We recognize the very special legacy of
Tony Gentile by awarding five $1,000 scholarships to Long Island seniors attending a Long Island college or university in the upcoming fall semester.