Manzo Family History

Making a good life

The story behind the market is one of perseverance and familial devotion.

While Pietro Manzo courted his future wife, Brigida, in Sicily, he would tell her,
“Someday we will make a good life for ourselves in America.”

Pietro, who was born in Memphis and moved to Italy as a young child, made the
trip alone to St. Louis, where an uncle had lived. He worked at a market for a few
years and

saved enough to send for Brigida. The details are still fresh in Brigida’s mind. The
year was 1952, the passage fare was $250, and the ship was The Saturnia.

In their time apart, Pietro occasionally sent money to Brigida. After she arrived,
times were hard. As Pietro looked for work, the bills mounted. Brigida realized
that it was time to tell her husband a little secret. To his delight, she revealed a
wad of cash that would tide them over. She had saved every dollar he had sent
to her, suspecting, as she prepared to move to an unknown land, that the money
might come in handy.

“When I first met him, I used to tell my family, ‘I am going to marry that man; I am
going to move to America, and we are going to own our own shop,'” she said.
“You know what? Everything came true!”

In 1969, the Manzos were forced out of their Franklin Avenue space for the
construction of a bus station. The family closed up shop and trucked their
refrigeration units to their current location. The Southampton neighborhood
embraced the new grocery and helped it become a neighborhood fixture.

When the Manzos realized that their new neighborhood contained a strong
Greek presence, they shipped in feta and Mizithra cheeses, Ouzos and Greek
olives to meet the demand. Pietro knew several members of two Greek Orthodox
churches and provided – and the store continues to provide -much of the food for
their events and festivals.

Inside the neighborhood, the family befriended a Greek woman, Bessie Stratos,
who owned a hair salon across the street from their shop. She and her husband,
Bill, also owned Spiro’s, a Greek restaurant. The couple connected the Manzos
with the Greek community.

Both families supported each other; Manzo’s sold at wholesale to the restaurant,

and the Manzo children walked across the street to have their hair cut by Bessie
Stratos.

Pietro guided the store through the years while the neighborhood changed. As
the Greek population dwindled, other ethnic groups arrived. When Pietro died,
Pete was faced with a decision: remain in the corporate world or help the family
business move into the 20th century.

After struggling with the “hardest decision” he ever had to make, Pete decided to
carry on the mantle of the family business.

“My mom worked very hard to keep this going,” said Pete, who had earned a
business degree and worked in telecommunications for three years leading up to
his father’s death. “I didn’t want to see anything happen to the store.”

Despite the sacrifices Pete has made, such as paying out of his own pocket for
his health insurance, he is happy with his position at the store.

“The corporate world and small business are like night and day,” he said.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction in owning a store and knowing the people we sell to.
A lot of our customers have seen me and Paul grow up. The old-timers come in
and say, ‘I knew your dad when you were a baby.'”

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Comments

5 Responses to “Manzo Family History”
  1. Kelly H says:

    My daughter and I finally came into the store after buying from them at the Best of Missouri. It was nice to have a personal touch and the food was great! We will be back this week! Inspired me to try and make bread to compliment the wonderful sausage.

  2. Tony says:

    i came to Missouri for an special event. Love italian food. first time i tried the Manzo’s sausages loved it. Best sausages i ever had. Next time i will bring my family over so the can try it.

  3. Jenn Fruhwirth says:

    I have been going to Manzo’s since 1971! My grandma and my mom and dad would take me shopping there every week for sausage, bread, olives and sinky CHEESE! I can remember walking barefoot on that lanolium (sp?) I am close in age with Pete; we both went to DuBourg, I think. I grew up 7 blocks from Manzo’s and recently moved back to St. Louis Hills (2 years ago) with my family of 7! My kids (and husbands) favorite thing to do is go to Manzo’s for a hot sandwich (unheard of in my day), stuff to make homemade pizza’s (they love pete’s sauce), and of course salcizza for my lasagna. Great to be back, see Pete, eat well and be raising my family back in the old neighborhood 🙂 Pete is to be commended on his bringing the family business into the 21st century – dad and Paul would be proud – and for uniting the Macklind businesses!!! Go Pete. You are a southside treasure!

  4. Steve Trosley says:

    My grandparents in Wood River — the Raimondis — used to buy olive oil, riccota and other Sicilian specialties from a Mr. Manzo who drove over in a big black car. This was in the 1950s and 1960s. I wonder if this is the same Manzo family. My uncle Carmen DeSalvo owned an IGA store on January Street too.

  5. Steve N says:

    I grew up on your pizza sauce. My mother has been buying it for 40+ years. In St. Louis I use no other sauce when I make my own pizza.

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