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!