CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY
1101 N. 27th Street
North 27th & Dupont Street
Pepeta's Cafe, also known as Pepeta's Saloon, was a fixture on North 27th Street in Cramer Hill through at least six decades.
William Pepeta Sr. came to America from Germany in 1872. He wed and started a family with wife Mary by 1880 in the Cramer Hill section of Camden NJ. William Pepeta Sr. worked in a factory as a wool washer through at least 1890, when he was listed in the Camden City Directory as living on Cambridge Avenue. He later worked as a shipyard carpenter, very possibly at the Noecker, Rickenbach and Ake Shipyard, which specialized in wooden boats and ships. His son William Pepeta Jr. was born in 1879.
By 1920 William Pepeta Jr. was the owner and operator of a saloon at 1101 North 27th Street, where he lived with wife Clara and their daughter, also named Clara. He managed to hold on to his business through Prohibition, and when drinking became legal again in 1933, he regained his liquor license. Pepeta's Cafe remained at 1101 North 27th Street through at least 1977.
Daughter Clara M. Pepeta remained a Camden resident until her death in 1998 at the age of 93.
Pepeta's Cafe is no longer standing, as of September 2003.
A little info info on Pepeta's Cafe. Back in the early 60's a friend I had grown up with was living on North 31st in Cramer Hill. He had married while I was in the service to a neighborhood girl.
This guy never really drank, he was almost a teetotaler. He was working for RCA at State Street and & River Road. In those days, a lot of people didn't have checking accounts or for that matter bank accounts of any amount to speak of.
After being laid off from RCA, my friend's car broke down and he had his last check from RCA to cash to feed his kids. He called me and asked me to take him to Pepeta's to get his check cashed. As he didn't drink he was a little embarrassed to ask for check to be cashed.
We got his checked cashed, and then he wanted to buy a beer. I said "No, give him a soda" and I paid for a beer. He was grateful as this was only the second or third time he had been in a bar.
I asked him why pick that spot. His story was that people he worked with said Mr. Pepeta would cash a paycheck, sell you one beer and send you home. Wives in the neighborhood loved him for it. It was not unheard of for a guy to cash his check, get all tuned up, and show up at home after spending a large part of his pay. Mr. Pepeta would tell these guys to go home, eat dinner, then come back, after they had turned their pay over at home. I give Mr. Pepeta credit, as I personally knew some bar owners who would lock the door if they could get away with to keep you there. As I said, Pepeta's Cafe was loved by housewives in the Hill, with good reason.
John Ciafrani, April 2004
My family was very close to the Pepeta's. Close personal friends. When I was a kid in the 50's and early 1960's, on Halloween, my mom would take me to the bar and we would enter through the back door where they had tables and chairs. (The women's entrance). The bar itself, had a brass rail and dirt under it. Very old time joint. It remained that way through the early 70's. My brother-in-law worked for Citgo on Petty's Island. He and some of his co-workers would stop at Pepeta's to down a few. At that point, Pepeta's was only open for a few hours and only for that crew.
Cliff Griffith, October 2003
Thanks to Cliff Griffith, who grew up in Cramer Hill, for helping out with this page.
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