New location, but store has same flavor
With its move to Boardman, Lariccia's added gourmet lines that are attracting new customers.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
BOARDMAN -- The granddaughter of the founder of Lariccia's Italian Marketplace has moved the business to Boardman but is keeping her memories of the Youngstown store.
Tessa Allegretto, 36, and her husband, Mike, 39, have moved the 95-year-old business to Southern Boulevard, just south of U.S. Route 224. Its former location on Midlothian Boulevard, where her father moved the business more than 30 years ago, has been torn down for a new McDonald's.
When they need to go to that area now, Allegretto asks her husband to drive out of their way so she can avoid seeing the construction site.
"People tell me I should go see it because it looks so different without the store there," she said. "I say, 'No thanks, I'll keep the memories I have.'"
Even though she was convinced that moving to Boardman was best for the business, she had so many good memories that it was hard to leave the old store.
Her father, Michael, put a tremendous amount of effort into making it a destination store for Italian foods, and she spent a lot of time there as a child learning the business.
"It was a tough move emotionally," she said.
She takes comfort in the photo of her father, who died in 1983, that's at the front of the store along with a photo of his father, Joseph, who started the store on Rayen Avenue in Youngstown in 1907.
The Allegrettos took over the business in 1990. Tessa Allegretto's mother, Edith Lariccia, is retired.
Other family members also work at the store, including Tessa Allegretto's cousin, Dominic Capezzuto, and uncle, Mike Gianfrancesco, and her husband's sister, Pam Rosati, and her son, Anthony Rosati. Tessa Allegretto's sisters, Lesa Thomas and Gina Lariccia, help out on holidays.
Her dad's spirit
One thing Tessa Allegretto kept from the old store is the sign that was out front.
"It reminds me of my dad," she said.
The sign is in the storeroom of the new store, but she intends to put it up on the back of the store so it can be seen by people shopping at Southern Park Mall.
But she doesn't need a photo, or a sign, to remind her of her father. "His spirit is here," she said.
As evidence, she told how she and her husband bought the Boardman land a few years ago because they thought Boardman might be a good place to be someday. Shortly after, McDonald's approached them seeking to buy the Midlothian property.
The off-and-on negotiations took two years, but the Allegrettos knew they had a place to go. At first, she credited fate for the property purchase. But then she decided her father deserved the credit.
"My dad loved this store, and he's my angel. That was him," she said.
And yet, her dad might not recognize the store today.
The old store looked like a small neighborhood grocery store from the 1960s with old shelving and narrow aisles.
The new store is open and airy. Plenty of sunlight streams in the front windows onto the ceramic tile floor.
"This store is my style," she said. "The old store was my dad's style and personality."
Other things have changed as well.
The store now is carrying a line of gourmet products that it didn't before. There are imported vinegars, olive oils and candy. The packaging, and even the bills sent to the store, are written in Italian.
The store's new location in the suburbs has helped it attract a new set of customers who want the best ingredients when they are making Italian dishes.
"They definitely are higher-priced, but people don't bat an eye," Tessa Allegretto said.
One of the new items is a small but stylish bottle of Italian vinegar that sells for $50.
"But we still have the old customers," she said. "They are the ones who started the store and made it what it was."
The store's big sellers remain its homemade meatballs and sauce. The store still makes its rolls by hand.
For people on the go, the store has a deli and a line of hot foods, including pepperoni rolls and pizza. Everything is made fresh daily.
"I don't even know what a preservative would be," Tessa Allegretto said.
The store's catering business, which began seven years ago, also continues to grow. While it serves graduations and other parties, a large part of its business is working for pharmaceutical companies, which provide lunches for area doctors' offices.
The store employs between 13 and 20, depending on the season.
For the future, Tessa Allegretto thinks that perhaps her 10-year-old daughter, Alyvia, may be following in her footsteps. She and her 3-year-old sister, Giana, spend Sundays at the store when the business is closed, but Mom is working on the catering business.
Alyvia has an interest in the business and always wants to know how sales are going.
It was Alyvia's idea to put to clocks up at the front of the store near the doors. One has the time in Rome, the other, the time in Boardman. She thought the Roman clock would make people entering the store feel like they were in Rome, and the other clock would give them Boardman time when they were leaving.