In 1933 Vincenzo’s started his grocery store at 1376 W Grand Ave. squarely in the middle of Chicago’s second-largest Italian area that stretched west along Grand Ave from the river to Western Ave. Vincenzo and his family lived on the third floor, rented the second, and ran the store out of the first.
Chicago’s Italian population had surged from 13,000 in 1899 to 124,000 in 1920. As this population grew and even more Italian immigrants found their way to Chicago, Vincenzo’s business expanded to meet the increasing demand for home delivery of specialty Italian products.
But the man who went from a hustling street vendor to owning his own store was not done expanding, not by a long shot. Signore Vincenzo needed more room to support his growing grocery business. So, in 1937 he rented part of potato warehouse on West Randolph Street, in the center of the wholesale meat and produce markets in Chicago, and set up his new wholesale business.
His sons Alfredo and Paul were instrumental in helping Vincenzo expand the family business beyond the grocery store and into wholesale and distribution. Both Alfredo and Paul started working in the store as very young boys and both spent the rest of their lives working together at the grocery company their father started.
After they opened it, the Randolph Street warehouse became home base for Vincenzo and his oldest son Paul. Meanwhile Alfredo and his mother continued to run the grocery store on Grand Ave. They continued to operate both stores until the mid-forties when they closed the Grand Ave store and brought the entire operation under one roof, which, it should be noted, they now owned.
Signore Vincenzo, along with his son Alfredo, handled operations and the back of the house at the Randolph Street warehouse. On the other hand, Paul became the ambassador of the family business, traveling back and forth between accounts and the warehouse.
Decades earlier Signore Vincenzo began his business in earnest when he started traversing neighborhoods and delivering to his customers. Now his son Paul was doing the same, only now the customers were restaurants and corner stores instead of housewives. Instead of a horse-drawn wagon, Paul got around Chicago in his large American-made four-door sedan. He worked at his family’s store for his entire life and left an indelible mark on it.