News

Historic Family-Owned Italian Grocer Celebrates 112 Years In West Michigan

Family-owned Italian grocer, G.B. Russo & Son, announced today a rebrand to commemorate the company’s history dating back to 1905. For 112 years the Russo family has been committed to the Grand Rapids community by offering one of the largest selection of wine and gourmet food; craft beer and liquor, kitchenware, homemade Italian entrees and more. G.B. Russo & Son will now be known as Russo’s International Market.  Russo’s will host a variety of giveaways, in-store events, and promotions spanning over a three-month period. A community celebration will be held in May.

“My grandfather left Montelepre, Sicily at the age of 17 and by 20 years of age had opened his first store in East Grand Rapids,” said Phil Russo, President of Russo’s International Market. “He made it is his mission to serve the community and fed many through the Great Depression regardless of background or race. He was an entrepreneur and risk-taker and in spite of natural disasters, the Great Depression and race riots, the store continued to prosper and expand to make us what we are today.”

In 2008, the business doubled the size of the store to 18,000 square feet and expanded parking at the 29th Street location. Today, the store has a 45-foot deli case with over 300 meats and cheeses from around the world, olives, fresh baked breads, oils, private label pastas and sauces, our own homemade Villa Russo frozen entrees, a vast selection of craft beers and liquor, thousands of wines, kitchenware and more.

Russo’s International Market is currently run by the 3rd and 4th generation of the family and in the past few years the business has expanded to include:

  • Catering for events, business meetings and more
  • Wine delivery
  • Custom corporate gifts
  • In-store educational beverage tasting events and more
  • A large selection of Michigan and Grand Rapids products
  • Additional private-labeled items
  • Expanded homemade products such as sandwiches, dips, sauces, breads and more

“In honor of our anniversary we will share history on Grand Rapids in the 1900s while celebrating the present and future endeavors,” said Kelley Russo of Russo’s International Market. “It is our goal to constantly reinvent ourselves as my great-grandfather would’ve encouraged us to do.”

Historic Items of Note:

  • In 1908, Giovanni Russo moved the store to Division near Franklin. This area was once known as Little Italy. At that location, he owned apartments, Roma Dance Hall, Grand Rapid’s first pizzeria, a pasta-making factory, and warehouse.
  • In 1914, a kidnapping of his eighteen-month-old daughter by the Black Hands Gang was thwarted by the Russo nanny. The gang went on to threaten and harass the family until the Grand Rapids City Police were able to build a case, with Giovanni’s help. The Grand Rapids Press wrote an article dated 11.5.1914 that stated: “It was through Russo’s activities and his disregard for the Black Hand warning that enabled police to capture the gang.”
  • Russo established Roma Hall above the store on Division, during the Great Depression and prohibition era. Throughout the Hall’s history, Giovanni rented it to anyone, regardless of ethnicity or status, for dances, weddings, dinners and jam sessions featuring the likes of Ray Charles and Jimmy Reed.
  • Known musicians such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Mary Wells performed for    Roma Hall audiences in the 1950s and 60s.
  • Due to Giovanni’s acceptance of all races and economic backgrounds, his was the only business on the block not burned down during the race riots of the 1960s.

Promotions & Giveaways:

  • Monthly sweepstakes such as in-home educational Italian dinner and gift certificates, catered business lunch, private wine tasting.
  • Wine tastings every day throughout March.  Receive an additional 10% off select wine on the day of the tasting.
  • In-store events such as Vander mill Cider, Sunday Sips & Tips, Paint & Pair, Adult   Easter Egg Hunt and more.
  • Special treats such as mini cannoli’s, wine, beer and more!
  • Giveaways throughout March, April, and May – check social media for more info on Michigan and Grand Rapids made items.

For more information on Russo’s International Market and upcoming giveaways, events and promotions, visit gbrusso.com. A fact sheet and timeline on the rich history of the Russo family is included with this release.