Iavarone’s offers fresh meats, vegetables, pastas, desserts, sauces and frozen foods. The Maspeth store, located at the corner of Grand Avenue and 69th Street, has been around since 1976, but the company has been run by the Iavarone family since 1927.
Last Tuesday, the family business celebrated its 90th anniversary with a pig-shaped cake and family photos.
“Proud, that’s the first word that comes to mind,” said Michele Iavarone, operating manager of the Maspeth location, when asked about the anniversary. “Hoping that I continue to make my family proud.”
She’s part of the fourth generation of Iavarones who now run the family business. Michele’s three cousins, Christopher, Jonathan and Joseph Jr., and two uncles help run three other locations in New Hyde Park, Wantagh and Woodbury.
“My cousins and I, we all get along really well, luckily,” Iavarone said. “You always hear horror stories about working with family members. We’re doing something right.”
The family business started with Pasquale Iavarone, Michele’s great-grandfather, who arrived on Ellis Island in 1919. Eight years later, he opened up a butcher shop in Bushwick selling sausages, coppa and prosciutto.
The demand for Iavarone’s meats were so great that police barricades were set up outside the store to control the crowds during the holidays.
In 1951, Iavarone’s two sons, Joe and Jerry, took over the reigns of the store. It still operated as a butcher shop at the time, Michele said.
In the 1970s, Iavarone Bros. expanded to Maspeth and Long Island. At this point, Michele’s father was running the Maspeth shop. The third generation of Iavarones added a new spin to their meat shop.
“They turned it more into the prepared foods and deli side of it,” she said. “That’s where the niche is growing, more prepared foods.”
In the ensuing decades, Iavarone’s added a store in New Hyde Park and an adjacent cafe. In 2004, the family business opened their largest store in Wantagh on Long Island.
Michele Iavarone said she wasn’t sure when the Bushwick location closed. Though a restaurant operates at the site now, the old “Iavarone Bros.” sign still sits atop the building. The Maspeth location is their oldest standing store.
Growing up, Iavarone said she used to come work with her father in Maspeth. She was a cashier and store clerk on the weekends. After she graduated from college in 2001, she decided she wanted to work in the family business.
“That was the natural progression, to work with your dad and the store he was at,” she said. “Just like how my cousins went with their dads in the stores they were at in Long Island.”
Iavarone said she’s noticed Maspeth change a lot over the last four decades, including her last 15 years working at the store after college. She has noticed that a lot of the “old-timers” are “fading away.”
“Customers are getting younger, a lot of yuppies and hipsters,” she said. “Unfortunately, all my old-timers are either passing away or moving away.”
Iavarone noted that their gourmet market has a loyal customer base. Regular shoppers typically come two or three times a week, and employees stick around for 20 years, she said.
“I greet all my customers by name,” she said. “They know what they like, we try to give them what they want.”
As the neighborhood changes, so does the market, Iavarone said. They offer more “grab-and-go” and antibiotic-free meals, which customers have been asking for.
But she doesn’t see change as a bad thing. Her family business has kept up with the changing needs for nine decades. Above all else, Iavarone said what has kept the family business running successfully is the quality of their products.
“You get what you pay for, you pay for good quality,” she said. “Luckily, we’ve been fortunate enough where we have been able to stay competitive in the market.”
As the fourth generation of Iavarones seek to make their mark on the company, Iavarone said they’re “always looking to expand.” The whole family lives in Long Island, so they will look at different locations there.
Reflecting on years of hard work, Iavarone said it’s rewarding to see the success.
“Four generations in any business alone is a long time,” she said. “That in itself is an honor.”