Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Family Grocery Stores

Rulli Brothers

Rulli Brothers (from their Facebook page)

There was a time when there were local groceries and convenience stores in many neighborhoods of Youngstown. Almost all of them were family owned. When I was growing up on the West Side, I could walk up Oakwood hill and buy penny candy from Borey’s little store front. It seems they sold little more than snack foods and candy and mostly catered to the school kids walking by from Washington School.

Further up Oakwood, there was a small store opposite Borts Field known at least at one point as Zitello’s. Again, it was a great place to get a bottle of pop after swimming at Borts Pool or snacks on the way home from West Junior High to my home on Portland Avenue.

If we ran out of something and needed a loaf of bread or a bag of sugar, mom would send me down to “Pops” on Mahoning Avenue, a block and a half down the hill from my house. It was also my favorite place to buy baseball cards when I was in that phase.

For years, if we wanted to buy good ethnic baked goods and other foods, we’d go down to Cherol’s Market on Salt Spring Road. According to the Vindicator, Joe Cherol finally retired in 2011, selling the market.

One of the most iconic of these local stores was the Point Market located at the corner of South Avenue and Midlothian. You could always spot the store by the big rotating bright Red Delicious apple above the store. Before the extension of I-680 from South Avenue to Boardman, I would go by there every time I visited my girlfriend (now wife). When I made the left turn onto Midlothian by the Point Market I was almost to her house.

My wife added her memories to mine talking about Salata’s on Midlothian. Mr. Salata and her father were childhood friends and he’d come over on her father’s birthday and they enjoy a shot together! In later years, after her father passed, Salata’s would deliver her mom’s groceries because she did not drive.

Perhaps one of the most successful family groceries that is still going strong is Rulli Brothers, which first opened for business in 1917, the same year as Cherol’s. They were located at one time in downtown Youngstown but now have stores in Austintown and Boardman, still selling all the great ethnic foods and recipe ingredients that Youngstown loves.

Like many other neighborhood family run businesses, many of these were shuttered as they could not compete for cost and selection with the larger convenience and grocery chains. Others closed as the population migrated from the city or owners retired and no family wanted to carry on. Looking at a listing of stores in Youngstown I still recognize a few family names–Lariccia’s, Colla’s, Rashid’s and Gia Russa, but the list is dominated by regional and national chains.

I would love to hear about the family stores in the neighborhood you grew up in. Like neighborhood bars and other businesses, Youngstown has a rich heritage of family grocers that catered to the needs of their local communities. It would be great to capture some of that heritage of these hard-working local food purveyors that provided the raw ingredients for all those great Youngstown dishes!

25 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Family Grocery Stores

  1. What a fine topic. There was a small market called S and M (I think) at Lakeview and Mahoning Avenues. We bought groceries there in between our weekly family trip to the A & P store across from the West Side Library. I am a big fan of Rulli’s and the hard working family who runs the stores. I try to stop when I am back in Y-town. I like both locations. Thanks for sharing Bob.

      • I know the store you are talking about but there was also one on the SOUTH side of Mahoning, on the Southwest corner of Mahoning and S. Lakeview, the other side of the street about a half block west. We also knew the E-Z market as “Pops.”

  2. When I was very young, I lived on the corner of Ellenwood and Erie, near the South High Field House. On Erie street was a market owned by Mary and Joe Palazzo, the couple who started Palazzo’s Restaurant on Midlothian Blvd. At about age 4, I picked up a doll they were selling in the store, walked up to Mr. Palazzo at the cash register, and said, “Charge this to my Dad.” And he did! The store sold all kinds of food, meat, dairy and various sundries, along with the occasional toys. Joe and Mary lived upstairs. Later when we moved to Shelby Road near Lanterman’s Falls, there was a store called The Fruit Basket on the corner of Glenwood and Canfield Road. The Point Market was right across the street from my church. They sold oven-fresh Italian rolls on Sunday mornings, and we usually went there after church to buy rolls and deli meat for sandwiches when we got home. They also had bubble gum suckers which, if I was well-behaved in church, would be my reward! Great times and wonderful stores. Thanks for the reminder of all that.

    • Sallie, thanks for sharing these great memories of family grocery stores where you lived. I really didn’t know the stories of these places and am so glad you told them!

  3. I grew up in Campbell…still live here today. My grandparents immigrated from Slovakia and opened a family owned corner store in the early 1900’s, Judin’s Market @ 13th St. & Gordon Ave. one block from our Slovak church, St. John the Baptist. Many of the customers were families who’s husbands worked in the Steel Mills. When my family continued the business up until 1959, I remember my parents talking about “putting it on the book”…where families charged their groceries until pay day, and then would come in and pay what was on their book!!!! Unfortunately when the chain stores opened in the strip plazas, it was the downfall of many small family owned businesses. Many would go to the Plaza stores, the A & P, Krogers…& “forgot” to pay what was on “the book”, or only shop when they needed to put it on the book.
    There were also so many other stores in a few block radius Kranyak’s, Barardi’s, Evansky’s, Harvischak’s and many more throughout Campbell.
    Great services for the hard working people that formed our great communities!

  4. My Dad ran the A & P on South Ave. for many years before opening Post’s Market in Canfield. He moved to two additional locations in Canfield over the years each time getting a little bigger each time. Finally in the mid-fifties he joined four other independent grocers and started Sparkle Super Markets. They had a wholesale division called Betsy Ross Foods in Akron that sold to independent grocers all over NE Ohio. He retired and sold out in 1969.
    I sure do miss him and his stores.

  5. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Working Class? | Bob on Books

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  7. My grandmother ran a grocery store in Smokey Hollow until they moved to Judson Avenue in 1927. They lived above the store. My Aunt’s husband was John Ambriola who ran Ambriola’s Italian Grocery Store for years. His family was and still is the sole importer of Locatelli Cheese into the United States.

  8. My grandparents owned Montella’s Isaly’s on Oak St. So many fond memories of having Skyscrapers, chip-chopped ham and the penny candy counter. Growing up in Brownlee Woods, there was a storefront in a house on Brownlee Ave. I remember being given a dime to go and buy a loaf of bread. Mid-60’s I think.

  9. I was born in 1948. my parents bought their FIRST home in Struthers on 171 Ridgeway. I lived there until I went out on my own in 1967. There were many grocery stores in my neighborhood. Ridgeway was ONE block West of Center St. Center Street ran North to South from Lowellville Rd South to the intersection of Struthers Rd, and Clingan Rd. intersections. Starting from Lowellville road and heading South there were many little stores. They were as follows: Kosko’s Store, Nelly’s Dairy, Marapease Market, Brendisi’s Dairy, Hurtuck’s Market, Don Yallech Store, and Charlie Smirk’s Store. There were SEVEN stores in just ONE mile and I believe that all of the owners lived behind or above their store. It was a great era to have experienced.

    • John, I think you are so right. There was a personal quality, a fabric of neighborhood between these storeowners and the people who patronized them. I’ve heard so many stories of how the owners would keep a tab for customers when there was a strike or layoffs. It was a great era indeed.

  10. From my house a 933 Campbell Street I was less than a block from two corner grocers. One on the corner of Indianola and Zedaker and Kaster’s Food Market at Shady Run and Campbell. On my way to Bennett School I passed Babinchak’s store on Homestead and Dewey.. On Kaster’s had butchered meat but they all had milk, bread and other staples. Most families had one car and it as at work with dad, so children went to pick up necessities and , yes, you could put it on a tab.

  11. Montella’s Isaly was my grandfather’s store. (Hi, Cindy) I remember in the late 50’s early 60’s when Pesce’s (sp) Bakery would drop off fresh Italian rolls on Sunday morning. They’d be sitting outside the door before the store even opened. People would stop by on their way home from Mass at the Immaculate and buy fresh bread, and sometimes ice cream. When I was in high school, some of the boys called it St. Montella’s because they were supposed to be at Mass on Sunday morning, not sitting at the lunch counter!

  12. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Small Businesses | Bob on Books

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