Grocer Serrelli’s keeps tradition alive
Craig Lloyd of Chicago hugs Patti Serrelli of Chicago, owner of Serrelli's Finer Foods in Chicago, during a reopening event on Saturday. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 7, 2013 6:16AM
After more than 70 years, a Galewood neighborhood business is putting on a new face.
But Serrelli’s Finer Foods will keep the traditions that have made it successful.
The business, started in 1934, has been at 6454 W. North Ave., for 32 years. And while third-generation owner Patti Serrelli didn’t want to move, she did think it was time to give the place a new look.
Work started in October, and the store held a grand re-opening Dec. 1.
“We were only closed a total of 12 days,” she said. “They did the remodeling in stages thanks to my wonderful contractor. He had it all figured out and orchestrated.”
The store specializes in selling food from Italy, from pasta and cookies to Italian beef and sausage made fresh on-site that Serrelli says has made them a popular destination.
“My father was the originator of Italian beef in the Chicagoland area,” she said. “The original store started out on Huron (Street) and Western (Avenue) in the old Italian neighborhood.
“Then they moved to North Avenue and Pulaski (Road) and then they moved here.”
She said there might be doubters, but she believes her family’s Italian beef is the best. “I’m claiming it because it’s the truth,” she said.
That’s one of the main reasons behind the renovations.
“My whole method to my madness renovation was to put in a beef stand,” she said. “It’s grab and go.”
Now, along with shopping, customers can order an Italian beef sandwich or other dish.
Inside, the store is inviting. Customers enter through automatic sliding doors to see shelves of food on the left and right of the store. At the back, Italian meats and cheeses are on display inside a long deli case.
Serrelli takes pride in having a butcher on staff to cut the meat the way the customer likes it. Above the deli case, three flat-screen televisions show prices for the deli, meat items and store specials, as well as the menu for the new Italian beef stand.
Kathleen Frieberg, a cashier at the store for eight years, said she and the customers like what they see.
“She did a wonderful job,” Frieberg said. “There are new (cash) registers and everything is computerized.
“Most of the customers are shocked and they think it’s beautiful,” she said. “She made a great effort to push this place forward in a positive fashion.”
Serrelli said the store may have a new look, but the quality is the same.
“I’m keeping the old family flavor and bringing it up to modern times,” she said.
“We make our own beef and sausage and wholesale it also,” Serrelli added. “We have an oven that cooks 1,500 pounds of beef at a time. We make a lot of Italian beef. We wholesale it to restaurants and beef stands.”
At the grand re-opening, customers could taste the beef and sausage made on site, as well as sample the imported cheeses and other food the store sells. Every hour there was a raffle drawing.
Serrelli remembers bagging groceries at the stores when they were run by her father, Dan, and grandfather, Louis. That may be the reason she never sold the business.
“It’s probably what I should have done,” she said. “I’m the only child, but I wanted to keep my father and grandfather’s name alive. Keeping the store open was a tribute to them.”
She considers the store’s new look a tribute, but said it also gives her a sense of rediscovery.
“This is a whole new life for me,” she said. “I’m looking forward to having fun and reinventing myself.”
“I hope they (customers) love me as much as they loved my dad and grandpa,” she said. “They were great humanitarians.”