Giant Food Mart celebrates a half century in business

WELLSVILLE — “Giant Food Mart, our people make the difference.”

More than an advertising jingle, that motto has sustained the locally-owned and operated grocery store for five decades. Giant Food Mart is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week, with its many longtime employees gathering for a group photo Tuesday in the produce section.

“We’re very proud of the heritage,” said Mike Berardi, who owns the enterprise with his brother Chris. “It’s a testament to having this many employees that have been with us for decades. You don’t see that a lot. Chris and I are blessed to have that kind of support from our staff.”

Giant Food Mart has its roots in the Bronx, where John N. Berardi, a butcher by trade, owned a meat market called Palace Market. In the 1950’s, John P. Berardi learned the trade of cutting meat in the Bronx, following in his father’s footsteps. He later moved to Olean where he became the Meat Merchandiser for Olean Wholesale Grocery Co-op.

John P. Berardi learned and built everything that is Giant Food Mart from the ground up. Alongside his wife Theresa, they raised three sons together, John, Mike and Chris. Mike and Chris chose to make it their career to continue in the same direction as their father in the food business.

Mike now works out of the same office once occupied by his father until his retirement in 2000. Mike, then managing the second Giant location in Cuba, took over his father’s role in the Wellsville store, guiding it to the 50-year milestone in 2019. Giant Food Mart has been able to excel in an era when most grocery stores are part of large corporate giants.

“We’ve seen a lot of change,” Mike Berardi said. “One thing that has really stayed the same over the years is having that personal relationship with the public and at the management level. That’s what it’s all about.”

More than a grocery store, over the years Giant added other services like dry cleaning and the ability to purchase stamps, cash checks and pay utility bills. Giant also carved a niche with its specialty items, such as its famous salt rising bread, its two-foot subs, slow cooked roast beef made right in the deli, and Old World Style Italian sausage from the meat department.

Berardi said Giant will remain committed to offering the freshest possible meat options for customers.

“We built the business up over the years, and how we’ve maintained it is having that customer service and expertise in meat. That’s our long history,” Berardi said. “We will continue to have butchers and wrappers at our stores. Anymore, bigger chains can order a case of strip steaks that come in already packaged, and all you do is put a sticker on them and put them out. It’s cut and there’s healthy ways to do it, I’m not knocking the competition, but we cut fresh daily seven days a week at our stores. That’s what we believe in.”

The Giant motto likely isn’t going anywhere, either. The people make the difference.

“It’s the people you know,” Berardi added. “You can come in our stores and you can see many of the same faces. We have turnover at some positions, but that’s natural and normal in a retail business. Our turnover is really fairly low in upper and middle management and key staff positions.”

That fact was on display Tuesday as the veteran employees gathered for a photo commemorating 50 years.

Wellsville Giant Food Mart Store Manager Phil Williams has 35 years experience and Cuba Giant Food Mart Store Manager Jim Erwin has nearly 30 years of service. Between the locations, Giant Food Mart has two people that have been employed with the company for over 40 years, Doug Depew (44 years) and Sue McDaniels (42 years). As well as six people for over 30 years: Kim Snyder (39 years), Tim Carlin (37 years), Phil Williams (35 years), Bill Perham (34 years), Lisa Burton (33 years), and Dave Payne (33 years). Five people have been with the company for over 20 years: Jim Erwin (28 years), Jeff Warner (26 years), Dianna Shawl (22 years), Joe Bilotta (21 years), and Jesseca Sisson, Cuba Liquors Store Manager (21 years). And eight people have 15 years or more of service: George Harrington (19 years), Mike Briggs (18 years), John Murphy (17 years), Jerome Swift (17 years), Janice Shea (15 years), Christie VanSkiver (15 years), Jake Beaton (15 years), and Josh Shedrick (15 years).

“Thank you to our customers for giving us a chance,” Berardi said. “For letting us know when we do something that exceeds your expectations and also letting us know when we fail to meet them so we can strive to be better. It has been our pleasure serving the public and the community over the last 50 years. We look forward to the next 50 years.”