By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Mom and pop stores are an endangered species. The latest example is the imminent closing of Manzo Importing Company in South St. Louis after nearly 60 years in business. The closing date is Sept. 14. They've been in business for 58 years.
A husband and wife from Highland, Ill. explained why they dropped by Manzo's Tuesday: the homemade sausage. Second-generation owner Pete Manzo shared memories with customer after customer at the retail store location at 5346 Devonshire Avenue.
"There's a lot of memories here," Manzo said. "All morning I've had people comment and tell me about when their dad used to bring them here every Saturday."
Julie Randolph is a loyal customer.
"I'm sad to be losing a local business with great homemade sausages and just a taste of things that you can't get at the big-box grocery stores," she said. "It's hard for a store this size to compete with the big stores and sometimes people just forget about it. I've told friends and neighbors about this place."
"It's bittersweet," Manzo said. "I have a one-on-one relationship with all these customers and their families because I've been here since I was little kid."
That's no exaggeration. Near the cash register is a large photo of 2-year old Pete Manzo riding on his brother Paul's shoulders in the store aisle. They were co-owners until Paul's death in 2008.
Their parents, Pietro and Brigida Manzo, opened Manzo's original location in 1955 on Franklin Avenue in downtown St. Louis. In 1969, the Manzos moved to their current location on Devonshire Avenue where it became a fixture in the Southampton neighborhood. Pete Manzo recognized the company wouldn't make it several years ago.
"When you have put all of your personal money into a business, have worked it as best as you can, it's still not making what it should," Manzo said. "It's a hard decision. And it took me a while to come to grips with putting to rest a family business."
Although the retail store is closing, Manzo's will continue to supply wholesale sausage to area restaurants and businesses. He plans to lease the retail store location to another business.