PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Legendary cheesesteak shop owner Joey Vento has died (see related article).

Employees at Geno’s Steaks learned of their boss’s passing when they came in to work the evening shift.

Controversial owner Joey Vento, who famously put up a sign reading, “This is America when ordering, please speak English” passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 71.

Joe Skats, who worked at Geno’s for about 15 years, says Joey Vento was a hard working man who worked until the day he died. “Four in the morning every day, and he’s working, he’s got his apron on.”

Manager Joseph Perno says as a tribute to Vento, Geno’s will remain open. “You know, he still has his son, his wife and my other aunt; his sister-in-law. I’m his nephew and we got employees that have been here for years that are going to just keep it going along.”

“It’s hard but he’s here,” Skats says. “He ain’t going nowhere! He’s going to lead us from up there, so we have to take every step as we go!”

Thirty-year employee Tommy Endris describes his boss as a character: “His views were his own, but he was a good hearted man, he was just — he was Joey Vento, that’s all! He was just one of a kind!”

Endris saw Vento just a few hours before hearing the sad news.

“And we were just talking about — you know he was joking around — I mean, you never know!!!”

He says Vento came in every morning to put in the orders, including on the day he died.

“He’s going to be missed by me, I’m gonna tell you that right now. Joe — I know you’re up there listening! God bless you, and rest.”

Perno says folks have been calling Geno’s non-stop about Vento. The family is asking for privacy during this difficult time.

Reported by Hadas Kuznits, KYW Newsradio 1060

Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE