A local store, opened by an Italian immigrant and run for three generations by the same family, is celebrating a significant milestone.
Putorti’s Broadway Market, which opened on Sept. 8, 1927, is in its 85th year of operation.
“Family has always been involved. It’s been a central gathering place for the family. We always say it’s been three generations but one family,” said Cheryl Putorti, who has run the business alongside her husband Fra for more than three decades.
Carolina Putorti, who immigrated to the United States when she was 13 years old, opened the store in a small, stone house on Mountain Street, primarily so she help support her family and add one very important item to her wardrobe.
“She liked silk stockings but couldn’t afford them after having a third child so she the started the store,” Cheryl said.
The first item she sold was a pouch of Paper Mechanic chewing tobacco. She also sold a variety of homemade foods, such as sausages and ice cream.
In 1950, Carolina made the decision to move the store to its current location on Broadway.
“It was the only store on this side of the street. All the other stores, there was six of them, were on the other side of the street and everyone told her she wouldn’t last,” Cheryl said. 62 years later the store remains on Broadway.
Three years after the move, on the same day the Grand Union supermarket opened, Carolina decided she needed to do something different, offer something no one else offered. Her idea: a sandwich topped with mayonnaise, onions and Italian meat.
“For years, she made those subs every day. Some people would come in and ask for one without onions and she would say in her heavy Italian accent, ‘You don’t want onions, you can pick them off’,” Cheryl said.
Today, employees make nearly 60 “gram’s subs” everyday; making it perhaps Whitehall’s most beloved and enduring culinary treat.
In the early 1970s, Fred and Ann Putorti, who took over the store after Carolina’s husband died, decided they no longer wanted to run the business.
“I was working at Grand Union and going to ACC at the time and decided to drop out and run the store,” said Fra.
His parents cosigned on a loan and Fra took the helm of the store on July 1, 1973. A few years later, Fra and Cheryl were married and the couple has continued to run the store ever since.
In the early years of their marriage, they actually lived above the store and their children could often be seen playing behind the counter. When the children got older, they worked behind the same counter.
Cheryl said the store has evolved with the times
We’ve made lots of changes and expanded the store,” she said.
Fra said the store was one of the first in Whitehall to move to an electronic scanner.
“We began offering lottery tickets and Western Union. We’ve added ice cream and expanded the deli. We even added catering. We try to provide services other people don’t,” Cheryl said.
And while many “ma and pa” stores have disappeared, Putorti’s has endured, a fact Cheryl chalks up to hard work and a familiarity with its customers, many of whom have been loyal customers for years.
“We’re here every day and we’re consistent. We try and provide a good product and competitive prices. We’re married to the business. It’s our main priority. We have to be here. And we’ve also been fortunate to always have great employees.
“It’s a lot of work but the community has been good to us and in turn we’ve tried to be good to the community.”