There’s a gorilla in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, a 25-foot statue that stands outside a gas station on Route 206. his name is Mighty Joe, and he is currently the mascot of Mighty Joe’s Gas, Grill & Deli. But before he came to his current home (and his current name), the massive gorilla statue lived another life.
The fiberglass gorilla was built in Spain and shipped to the U.S. for about $50,000. Originally he towered above the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey, when he went by the names Kongo-Pongo and Magilla. For a time, he resided outside a Wildwood go-kart track as George.
In the early 2000s, the gorilla went up for sale. Mighty Joe’s owner Larry Valenzano purchased the deteriorating primate for $2,000 and spent another $10,000 repairing him. In 1999, Valenzano had lost his son, a body builder who had gone by the nickname “Mighty Joe,” to a brain tumor. Valenzano renamed the family business in his son’s honor. After they acquired the gorilla, it too was given a new name in Joe’s memory.
The refurbished gorilla made his debut on Route 206 in 2004. He stands inside a white fence, with a sign affixed to his front explaining the history of how a 25-foot gorilla came to be in the Pine Barrens.