In 1936, an 18-year old, from the Bronx, Genaro "Jerry" Porricelli got a job as a delivery boy with Gristede Brothers in New York City. In 1942, Gristede sent him to Old Greenwich to manage its store there. After a stint in the U.S. Infantry in World War II, he returned to Gristede in 1946. However, by 1950, at age 32, he felt ready to make a go of it for himself and opened a store in Old Greenwich. He called his new store, the Old Greenwich Food Mart. In 1954, with sales growing, his brothers Anthony and Frank joined him. Soon after, he was joined by Andy DiGuiseppi, a very knowledgeable meat manager, Sam Molgano and Jack Cassidy. Today, the Food Mart has two stores, in Old Greenwich and Cos Cob, that employ 150 people and generates over $35,000,000 in sales.
Jerry Porricelli, or "Jerry Sr." as he was affectionately called, died last July at the age of 80. He was remarkable for the ambition, courage, and hard work that enabled him to build such a successful company. However, Jerry Sr. was equally remarkable for a social philosophy that shaped the very nature of the enterprise and made it unique.
The overwhelming factor contributing to the Porricelli's success is their genuine affection for the people they employ as well as the customers, or friends as they are called, who they serve. Jerry Sr. had always considered his loyal customers and friends as "family" with the Food Mart reaching out to the community in many ways. Porricelli's was one of the first companies in the area to offer discounts to Senior Citizens. Through charitable events, such as the Annual Celebrity Golf Tournament, the Food Mart has raised money for such organizations as Hill House, the Mews, the Town Commission on Aging and the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.
Family involvement has been a literal reality from the very beginning. Anthony, his brother, is retired but still works two days a week. Jerry Sr. and Esther, his wife for over 56 years have two sons, Jerry Jr. and Joe Sr., both of whom are active in the business. Both sons received their training early being involved in the business as teenagers, working part-time and continued to do so through college. Joe Sr. majored in physics and business at Iona College and joined his father on a full-time basis after graduation in 1966. Joe Sr.'s responsibilities as company vice president include grocery and produce supervision, merchandising, purchasing and company advertising and promotions. Jerry Jr. graduated from Fordham University and went on to obtain a Law Degree from Fordham Law School in 1974. After spending a very brief time in private practice, Jerry Jr. returned to the family business in 1974. It was at that time that Porricelli's expanded from a one store company to three when it purchased the Cos Cob and the Greenwich Food Centers. Today, Jerry Jr. is company president and director of overall store operations.
In 1989, the Greenwich Food Mart location was closed when the landlord's expectations exceeded even what a successful Porricelli operation could support. Probably one of the most unique operations in the country, the Greenwich store was located on the town's main commercial street, contained no offstreet parking (customers had to feed meters when they found a spot) no basement, no loading docks and half of its 8000 square foot sales area was on a different elevation than the other half (customers had to go up or down a ramp to shop the entire store)! When the store closed the result was a classic case of addition by subtraction. Since the Cos Cob location was only a few minutes away and customer loyalty was so high, the popular Greenwich store manager, Dominick Sarica, was sent to the Cos Cob location to act as a true customer good will ambassador. The result? Over 80% of the Greenwich store's business were recaptured!
That was the very same year that Joe's son, Joe Jr., who had worked for the family business part time through school as his father and uncle had done before him, decided to join the management team. Joe Jr., also a graduate of Iona College, where he excelled on the baseball diamond, was promoted to store manager of the Cos Cob store, where he is today. Porricelli's are a special success story because of the personal touch that Jerry kept with not only his loyal customers but also his faithful employees. It is based on the concept of family and the Porricelli Family goes on.