Local Italian grocery calls Willowick “home” for 46 years
(Courtesy of Guest Columnist Paolo Guerreri, manager, Alesci’s of Shoregate)
Alesci’s of Willowick started back in 1972 when my father, Alfredo Guerrieri and my uncle, Antonio Guerrieri, bought the franchise rights off the Alesci’s of South Euclid guys. They both worked at other Alesci’s stores, and that’s where they got their experience and their drive to open their own store. I believe there were six other Alesci’s stores, and the idea of owning their own business was a lifetime dream of theirs.
They liked the idea of Shoregate in Willowick because the location was between former two big retail giants of Jotes (currently Marcs) and Pick-N-Pay (then Reider’s Stop-N-Shop and currently Giant Eagle) with plenty of parking and located on a main road.
Except for cigarettes, we sell almost everything that you would find in a regular grocery store or convenience store. What separates us from most stores is our deli and cheese section, as well as our hot food counter and our bakery. We make all of our bread, rolls and pizza dough from scratch every day in our bakery.
We haven’t changed much over the years. We’re old school. The original owners are still here and work part-time every day. We still use pen and paper to take all orders, and there is no laptop in the store. We have a Facebook page but no website.
We hire people who have experience, and we also hire folks with zero experience and train them. We hire people with criminal records because we believe that everyone deserves a second chance. Between part-time and full-time employees, we have around 25 people here.
We donate gift cards and gift baskets, cash and food to different members of the community and to benefits in the community several times per week.
The biggest challenge we currently face is the online world because the owners don’t know that world, and they don’t want to know that world; so, we can’t sell anything online. And our rent is almost $10,000.00 per month, which might prevent us from renewing our lease in seven years.
I’m not sure if we would just close up shop or move in seven years, but for sure we will not be at this location, which is a shame considering that we have paid rent on time for 46 plus years. I’m not sure what Shoregate’s future holds since there are empty stores and half of the land was sold to build an urgent care, liquor store, bank, and houses.
I’m inspired by tradition. I have worked here since I was eight years old. It’s all I’ve ever done; it’s all I know. I love the people, the hours, and the work. It’s very fulfilling and satisfying.
I don’t think people realize that the owners are almost 80 years old, that the managers put in 70 hours per week, and that someone is always here 24/7 cooking, baking or cleaning. And that the bread and pizza dough are made from scratch EVERY DAY!!! We have been in business for 46 years; so, we must be doing something right.
Even when I am not at the store, whether at home with family, out with friends or on vacation, I am always thinking about the store. I just can’t help it. I may not be the owner, but I treat the place like I am the owner.
Gina M. Tabasso, marketing communications specialist, HGR Industrial Surplus, www.hgrinc.com