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Throngs jam Boardman grocery on first day



Published: Tue, March 3, 2009 @ 12:00 a.m.
  New Rulli Market

A new Rulli Brothers store open in Boardman.

A new Rulli Brothers store open in Boardman.

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A long time part of the rulli bros - the hanging meat and cheese area

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Rulli Bros new store in Boardman - opened on Monday - checkout area

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Mike Rulli - with the Rulli bros products in the background - and the old front of the old building on the wall

By Don Shilling

Mary London pushed her shopping cart around the new Rulli Bros. grocery store in Boardman in disbelief.

“This is beautiful,” the 82-year-old South Side resident said as she congratulated Mike Rulli on the store’s opening day.

London has been shopping with the Rullis since the 1940s. She recalled the store in downtown Youngstown that featured locally grown produce but also had chickens out front on the sidewalk.

On Monday, however, the Rullis showed off their biggest store yet at South and Maple avenues. It doesn’t have any live chickens, but it has more than twice the number of items than the previous Boardman store at South Avenue and Mathews Road.

“All they need are some shoes and clothes, and I could just stay here all day,” London said.

Shoppers also asked about the old Mathews Road store.

Rulli said family members hope to reopen the smaller location as a neighborhood store with an emphasis on ethnic foods. He said they originally intended to keep both stores but decided two weeks ago that they and the employees would be stretched too thin.

He added that the old store needs extensive updating.

The family is still operating a store on Kirk Road in Austintown.

The new store, however, was so busy on opening day that customers in the early afternoon were waiting to find parking spaces outside and waiting for carts to be returned inside so they could have one.

Rulli said family members were excited by the crowds because they have invested much in the project, which he would describe only as a multimillion-dollar effort.

“We have it all riding on this store,” he said.

Kathy Miller, a Boardman trustee, said the store will benefit the township.

“It’s always good to see someone growing,” she said.

She noted, however, that it took four years for the Rullis to complete their project, and she doesn’t expect more development along South Avenue in the near future because of the weak economy.

Rulli said family members took “baby steps” in building the store because they wanted to limit their financial risk. First, they bought the property and then they started saving for construction.

He said family members decided several years ago that they needed another store larger than that at Mathews Road. They knew many customers were coming for meat and produce but going elsewhere to buy groceries.

The other store has 19,000 square feet; the new one has 52,000 square feet.

The additional size has allowed the Rullis to expand their offerings of traditional grocery products and ethnic items. The pet food section had been four feet long, for example. The new store has the entire side of a long aisle devoted to dog and cat food.

The old store had 10 varieties of olive oil. The new one has 55, including 14 new varieties that the Rullis have never carried before.

Family members grew nervous as the stock market collapsed and the recession worsened after construction got under way last year, Rulli said. But sales have continued their slow growth pace of 1 percent to 2 percent a year, he said.

He said he thinks many people are eating at home rather than going to restaurants. The recession, however, has changed people’s buying habits at the grocery store, he said.

People are buying less prime rib and high-end beer and more rump roast and lettuce.

“It’s almost a throwback to Norman Rockwell — meat and potatoes,” he said.

One thing that won’t change is the family’s commitment to be present in the stores, said Rulli — who left the Boardman store later in the day so he could close the Austintown store for the night.

Family members work 70 to 80 hours a week in the stores, which is the only way to keep up the quality and hold down the prices, he said.

That commitment also has led to the business surviving to the third generation, he said. Rulli rattled off about a dozen names of local grocers who have failed over the recent decades. Mostly they went under because the children of the founders hated the business, he said.

“My dad was smart enough to get us excited,” said Rulli, 40.

He was speaking of himself and his brother, Mark, who shared a bedroom growing up and still work side-by-side in the business today. They are joined by their father, Frank, and mother, Louise.

Another brother, Frank Jr., is an architect in Youngstown but often helps out with the business. A fourth brother, Nick, is a lawyer in California.

Someday, there might be another new wrinkle to the business. Mike Rulli said he and his brother Mark would like to take the company back to its roots.

Their grandfather Nick and great-uncle Frank started Rulli Bros. in downtown in 1917 as a place where they could sell produce they grew on their 14-acre farm on the East Side.

Their grandsons have talked about growing their own produce that they could sell at their stores. Their father owns land near state Route 46 south of Canfield.

“It would take everything back full circle,” Mike Rulli said.

shilling@vindy.com


Comments

1terrancesarco(41 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

this store will be the first in the 21st c. in ytown if they grow their own produce at the father's canfield property for their store. I say thumbs up to the owners Mike, Mark and their parents Frank sr. and Louise Rulli. One must always give Frank jr. a pat on the back for his contribution for having sweat on his brow at the family store. Maybe one day the Rulli's family would open a store downtown where the legacy started for the new apt dwellers at the Frango's penthouses.

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2julescakes(9 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I grew up in Ohio, now I live in California, I always loved Rulli Bros, it was my favorite store, now that they built this new one it makes me want to move back there!

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3DragonFly664(198 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Call me crazy, but I loved the "smell" of the store when you walk in!! Reminded me of grandma's house!

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4fudputer(46 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

i also grew up in ohio-youngstown--lived off Kirk road-i also live in ca.-(ripon)-when i go back for visits i always shop rullis-love the italian food and especially the meats----you guys are lucky---(dont miss the weather though)---

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5city_dweller(194 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I love Rulli Bros, and am very excited about the new store. I was one of the people they talked about in the article who got meat and produce there but went somewhere else for other groceries. Now, I look forward to doing more of my shopping in one location.

Congratulations Rulli Family!!!

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6Chief178(57 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I grew up in Youngstown, joined the navy and have been away for a long time. Every time I come back to Y-town I stock up on all of the Italian foods at Rulli’s, out side of being in Italy there is no place like Rulli's. I live in Tennessee and I have to make my own Italian sausage because you can't get the good stuff unless you make it yourself or go to Rullis brothers!

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7redvert(2075 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Nice to see six positive comments in a row about a happening in the valley!

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8paulydel(1308 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

This is a great story that some local small family business owner offers good decent food and at prices that keep people coming back. Good for them. Good Luck and God Bless.

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9papa44471(25 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I have never been there in my life but after reading this article with your comments I will definitely be shopping there later this week when the temperature gets up into the 50's. I'm sure I will enjoy it.

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10jlwood(1 comment)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

I think it would be a wonderful idea to grow produce on the Route 46 property. There is one very small problem, he doesn't own this property alone. Frank Sr. owns this property with 2 other family members. The community should get together and encourage Frank Sr. to buy the other family members out and start this produce farm. Why wait on the grandsons?? Lets gets this produce farm started ASAP!!

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11dbunne(9 comments)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks Rulli Bros.,
Congrats on a beautiful new store!

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12Dalewo(1 comment)posted 5 years, 7 months ago

Thank you so much!! The new store is absolutely beautiful, and as always the Employees are always so friendly and so helpful. Congratulations!!

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