Schiavoni’s Market has rewritten history — literally.
Earlier this summer, the family-owned Sag Harbor institution changed its established date by nearly a decade — from 1941 to 1932, now reflected in the store sign on Main Street — after discovering a piece of long-lost history.
It begins with the late Mildred Dickinson, the great-aunt of Jennifer Schiavoni, marketing director and wife of storeowner Michael Schiavoni, whose collection of Sag Harbor Express issues dates back to the 1930s.
“My mother was going through some of the papers and sent me a picture of the June 25, 1932 Sag Harbor Express with an announcement introducing the store, with specials on vegetables and such,” Ms. Schiavoni said. “I said to my husband, ‘The store has been there since 1932. Why do you have 1941?’”
Initially, Mr. Schiavoni was just as puzzled as his wife, he said. But after some digging, he began to piece the story together.
Up until this point, Mr. Schiavoni had thought his grandfather’s two brothers, Vincent and Gabriel, opened the store in 1939, but it was actually seven years earlier, as Schiavoni Food Store.
The July 1, 1932 issue of The Sag Harbor Express reads: “The Schiavoni Food Store opened on lower Main street on Saturday of last week. It is located in the new new [sic] Schiavoni building and is run by Vincent and Gabriel Schavoni [sic].”
But in November 1941, tragedy struck. While crossing a dark Main Street during an air raid drill, Vincent Schiavoni was hit by a car and killed, leaving Gabriel heartbroken and unable to carry on the business. Mr. Schiavoni’s grandfather, Angelo, then stepped up and took over the store.
“I can only guess that my grandfather, Angelo, didn’t use 1932 because he didn’t want to take credit for his brothers’ work, or because it was 1941 when he actually took over,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “For me and my sons, our great-uncles are part of our family and it makes sense to go back that far.”
The decision to change the date is supported whole-heartedly by the family, the Schiavonis said, and only further cements the business’ history in the village.
“I called my Uncle Gabe up — that was Gabe’s son, it was his father that had it — and I said, ‘I’m thinking about changing this to ’32, what do you think?’ He’s one of the guys in my father’s generation that are left,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “And he said, ‘Hey, it’s fine by me, I think it’s a great idea.’”
The 87-year history behind Schiavoni’s Market is a testament to three generations of tenacity and determination, through the Great Depression, World Wars I and II, and the never-abating struggles that come with running a family business, said Mr. Schiavoni, who is grooming his two sons, Josiah and Stephen, to take over someday.
“It’s very satisfying, it’s very challenging, it definitely keeps me going, for sure,” Mr. Schiavoni said of continuing the family business. “It’s humbling, too, the fact that it’s still going. My sons now, who will be fourth generation, are doing a very good job. I’m very particular and I’m pretty objective, and if they weren’t doing a good job, I would know it and that would be a problem, but they are.
“I have a deep respect for my grandfather and uncles who worked it in the ’30s, and my grandfather took over in ’41, and how they made it last as long as it did,” he continued. “They went through a lot of hard times.”
Schiavoni’s Market is located at 48 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call (631) 725-0366 or visit schiavonismarket.com.