GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A grocery store with more than a hundred years of history in Grand Rapids is moving back to downtown.
Russo’s International Market started on Division Avenue 112 years ago. A new second location will take over the old Bagger Dave’s location at 241 West Fulton St., down the street from The B.O.B.
“We’ve had a lot of request to get back downtown again, so we are going to do it,” Phil Russo, who owns the market, said.
Downtown is in need of a grocery store. The new Russo’s is all about good, fast, convenient food. It will include a bistro, deli, catering and a coffee, espresso and gelato bar. The deli will have seating for 60 people inside and 40 people outside, according to the Italian grocer. There will be curbside pickup, alcohol delivery and late hours.
“A lot of people live right there and they want to find a place in walking distance so they can quick grab a few items and head up to their apartment or condo,” Phil Russo said.
Russo’s was founded by his grandfather, Giovanni Russo, who came to America when he was 17 years old.
“Think of the courage that he must have had to leave everything behind and just come on over and try to start up a business that young,” Phil Russo said.
He said his grandfather had limited education and money. Giovanni Russo started working for a gas company and saved up to open GB Russo Importer in 1905. In 1907, he bought a building on Division Avenue north of Franklin Street.
“That area was known as Little Italy back then,” Phil Russo said.
Italians lived, worked and shopped there.>>PDF: Timeline of Russo’s International Market
In 1952, Giovanni died and his son took over the business. The store survived his death and the Grand Rapids race riots in the 1960s. The Russos say It was the only store on the block that was untouched because the family was always kind to everyone.
Since then, Russo’s moved a few more times, ending up on 29th Street. It’s not your average grocery store — many of the items are imported from Italy and you can’t find them anywhere else. That location will remain in operation even as the new one opens.
But one thing has remained the same: It’s still a family business.
“Family is important to us,” Russo said.
The site still needs permits and approvals because the site was previously zoned for restaurant use, but hopes to open in mid-August.