Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sparkle Markets

Grocery shopping is one of those necessities of life. When I was young, I would accompany my dad every Friday night to shop at the A & P on Mahoning Avenue on the Westside. Eventually that store closed, but a Sparkle Markets store opened that was actually closer opened at the corner of Mahoning and N. Belle Vista, across from Calvary Cemetery.

By today’s standards, the store was small. In later years, especially when my dad was hospitalized on several occasions I shopped there for my mom. I could always find whatever she needed and the meat counter people were always friendly and helpful (and, of course, knew what chip-chopped ham was). Sometime after my folks sold their home, the store closed. Recently I wondered what was happening with Sparkle Markets with all the competition from Giant Eagle and the like and found they were alive and well around the Mahoning Valley, eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and into West Virginia with 18 stores. In 2015 they even acquired the Brookfield Giant Eagle, which is now a Sparkle store. The closest stores to Youngstown are in Cornersburg and on South Avenue.

The beginning of Sparkle Markets was in 1955 when four independent local grocers came together with the goal of being able to better compete with the national chains while providing the “neighborhood-friendly” service I experienced at our own store. They eventually joined with a similar group of Akron area grocers with the same aims and out of this came Sparkle Markets. Their goal was to be “big enough to serve you; small enough to care.”

This neighborhood grocer philosophy is captured in the chain’s iconic “Sparky,” the clean-cut, cheerful grocer, ready to serve, running a clean and sparkling store. In fact, the store owners make up the board of directors of Sparkle, with Vince Furrie, Jr., store owner of the Village Plaza Sparkle in Columbiana serving as President. In 2018, Sparkle Markets received the 2018 Retailer of the Year by the Cleveland Food Dealers Association.

I’ve written too many stories of Youngstown businesses of the past. It’s encouraged to see this Youngstown-based chain of stores making it in such a challenging environment 67 years after their beginnings. You can go to their website for specials, coupons, food tips and recipes. In an environment where so many retail establishments are controlled by remote main offices, it is refreshing to see a situation where local store owners still serve local communities.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

20 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Sparkle Markets

  1. Thanks Bob. Growing up in McDonald Ohio (but I now live in NC) I would see the Sparkle advertising but never shopped there as the stores were not close by. It’s nice to know they are still in business. You always bring back so many memories with your stories of Youngstown. Keep them coming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Buckeye Bonhomie and commented:
    Y-Town is my town. My Dad worked at A&P, but after A&P closed, we often shopped at Sparkle. My Grandmother, in her inimitable way, called it “Spark-a-lee.” She’s been gone for over 40 years, but we all still call it “Spark-a-lee.” They make the BEST doughnuts!! #InAroundAndBeyondTheBuckeye

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember my mother taking me grocery shopping at the Sparkle on Glenwood and Winona Dr in Youngstown. There was a lady there named Minnie who always gave me candy. I believe she was the owner. What a wonderful person she was!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I started worked at the Mahoning Ave Sparkle Market in April of 1963 and went to the Gypsy Lane store in 1967 and Stared my sales in the food industry in March 1969. I loved working for the 4 owners at that time. Tony and Sal Santisi, Tony Schvone and Art Cohen. They were the best people that I ever knew and worked for.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I shopped at Mahoning Sparkle the 23 years I lived on S. Lakeview, and found it to be just as nice, price wise, employee wise, stock wise and convenient as your story indicates.

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  6. Pingback: Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Your Favorites of 2022 | Bob on Books

  7. My mom worked in the meat department at Holowach’s Sparkle Market in Cornersburg. It was a mile from our house and I was in there often. I knew the names of many of the cashiers, baggers, and her coworkers in the meat department. Wonderful childhood memories. Thank you for writing about Sparkle Market.


  8. Its sad to see that the Sparkle on Mahoning and Belle Vista closed; its now a hair place selling all kinds of hair goods. When I was 5 my Dad would take me to the A&P and straight ahead on entering there were tons of boxes you could pack your groceries it. As I got older and went there with him, I remember the cashiers who really looked upon their jobs as a profession; they were adept at counting change and packing groceries (bread and eggs on top) and really took pride in their work. They were unionized then and their pensions were quite good. Now the trend is scanning and bagging our own groceries. There should be a big rebellion over this and we shouldn’t take it lying down. I refuse to go thru the scanners and would rather wait than bag my own groceries. I am so tired of the bottom line philosophy; profit first people last. Imagine filling a full cart for a family of four and leaving work and then having to go scan and bag and put into your car all those groceries
    As an aside Bob, I wish you would write about Michael Kusabala (spell?) who donated all the money to build a new library on the West Side on the corner of Mahoning and Schenley. I believe he was an engineer by profession, single, Ukrainian, and kept a very low profile, and now deceased. Seemed like a very humble and generous man. When I was in the Library I asked the desk clerk who he was and she had no idea, which surprised me. Maybe you could do some research on him. The west side has deteriorated greatly in the last ten years and it is one bright spot shining there, beautifully landscaped. I believe he grew up on the west side and donated through The Youngstown Foundation but Im not sure. We lived with my grandparents on Wesley until I was 5 and have the fondest memories of my mom taking me to the library

    Liked by 1 person

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