When patrons peruse the aisles of a Guido’s Fresh Marketplace grocery store, few realize the company began as a modest fruit and produce stand at a roadside market in Massachusetts. A commitment to quality and a unique vendor system has enabled the company to grow and thrive, says co-owner Chris Masiero, and it will bring Guido’s continued success well into the future.
The story begins in 1979 when Matt Masiero, Chris’s brother, opened a small produce stand on Route 7 in Pittsfield, Mass. Having worked in a produce store in Beverly, Mass., as a teenager, Matt Masiero had a fondness for the industry. A few years after graduating from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, he decided to take a shot at running his own stand.
“He would open up in the summertime and close up in the fall,” Masiero recalls. At that time, Chris Masiero, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., was working as a chef at a New Hampshire inn. “I decided to stop what I was doing, which was running kitchens, and we formed a partnership,” he says.
They named the company after their father, the late Guido Masiero. “He was a physical education teacher in Manchester, Mass., for 35 years, and all that time, he wanted to be in business for himself, but never could be,” Masiero says. “In honor of our father, we named the store after him. That was 31 years ago, and here we are today.”
For about four years, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace operated as a fresh fruit and produce stand at a roadside market until the Masieros decided to take out a loan and buy property to make it a full-service store. “Since we only knew fruit and produce, we found vendors to come into the business with us,” he says. “We found a butcher, a baker, a fishmonger and a florist, and collaborated with them to form a store.”
“A full-service florist, Bella Flora beautifies each store with lush, fresh-cut flowers, tropical orchids, ivies and seasonal plants, scented candles and unusual cards,” the company says.
“Mazzeo’s Meat and Seafood is the area’s prime source for certified Black Angus beef, Kurobuta pork and Murray’s all-natural, free-range poultry, along with a wide selection of gourmet chicken and store-made pork and turkey sausages, as well as a complete line of fresh, frozen, smoked and prepared seafood specialties, including live lobsters.
“Completing the marketplace, Berger’s Specialty Foods in Pittsfield and The Marketplace Kitchen in Great Barrington offer premium sliced meats, gourmet cheeses, baked goods and all manner of delectable prepared foods.”
The idea was to rent each vendor space to operate independently within the confines of the store, Masiero explains. “Instead of having management in those areas, we have ownership in those areas,” he says. “The point-of-sales system is done through Guido’s, and then we make daily distributions to the independent owners. We run the front, and they help us financially make that viable.”
Its unique business model transformed Guido’s into a comprehensive, Old World-style food emporium. Its success prompted the Masieros to open a second store in Great Barrington, Mass., in 1995. Now the brothers take turns running the two stores. “Matt’s generally in one store, and I’m generally in the other,” Masiero says.
“There is no particular rhyme or reason to it. This month he might be in Great Barrington and I’ll be in Pittsfield, then we’ll change it up so that we are constantly interacting with the customers and the employees. Customers feel special when the owners interact with them. That’s something you can’t buy – it’s paramount.”
Due to its continuous growth, Guido’s has plans to expand once again by building a 5,000-square-foot addition to its Pittsfield store. “We’re looking to upgrade certain departments,” Masiero notes. “We’ll probably expand our health and beauty aisle, and natural food grocery aisle, maybe put in a small café, and we’re going to bump out the front to allow more space within the aisles to lend more comfort to the shopper.
“We’re going to be open during this renovation,” he adds. “We will play it by ear to see if we can continue construction during the summer, but if it’s too much of a burden on the customers, we’ll cease construction and pick back up after Labor Day. By fall it should be done. If not, hopefully before Christmas.”
Big chain supermarkets tend to dominate the market, but Guido’s Fresh Market stands its ground. “We’re an independent grocery store, and there really aren’t many of us left,” Masiero says. “We are a full-service market that competes with the big chain stores. In fact, we’re located in between two chain stores, and we choose to be.”
The company distinguishes itself from the competition through its commitment to quality, he explains. “Guido’s is known for quality,” Masiero asserts. “We were known as a fresh fruit and produce store, and we are more or less known for that today. We don’t sell Coca-Cola, Twinkies or cigarettes. We have more of a natural-foods slant to our business.”