There have already been so many return visitors to the recently opened il Mercato Italian Marketplace at 85 North Road in Highland that at first, co-owner Enza Greco thought something must be wrong. Seeing the same faces on consecutive days made her wonder, she said, if perhaps the people were there to return something they’d purchased. But as things turned out, it was quite the opposite. “No, we love this place,” they’d tell her, “we come every day.”
The spacious interior of il Mercato Italian Marketplace was once an apple cooler used for cold storage. Now the 22,000-square-foot space offers 5,000 square feet of retail shopping. Neatly arranged shelves hold an array of mostly imported and some domestic brands of fine Italian foods along with a variety of paper goods and household supplies. Customers can purchase in small quantities or in bulk. Single bottles of olive oil or small packages of pasta are displayed side-by-side with cases of the products, making it a simple matter to select one or the other, and the market regularly offers tastings to introduce their products. “We have Italian products that people are so happy to find,” said Greco. “And the prices are very affordable.”
In addition to an extensive selection of cheeses, meats, polenta, pasta, dairy products, coffee and tea, jams, sparkling and still water, sauces, vinegars and oils, products carried include restaurant-sized packages of aluminum foil, paper cups and plates, paper towels, mops and brooms and deli containers.
The market sells to both businesses and individuals. “We thought it would be mostly businesses, but so far, it’s been more people on their own. We’re right at the beginning of the village, and they pass by on their way to the post office. People were coming in before we even opened,” Greco said. “We’re so happy about that. It’s fantastic, because I want this place to become more than a supermarket, more than a cash-and-carry; you won’t come here just to shop. My idea is for this place to become a warm, friendly atmosphere where you can go for a cup of coffee and a croissant, hang out with friends. And that’s happening now, already, without us even trying to do that. I’m amazed.”
Future plans for il Mercato include opening a small bakery café and perhaps a pizzeria on site, she said, utilizing some of the vast space now used for storage. Currently in the works is a showroom space to sell restaurant equipment; they’ve already sold several pizza ovens. One distinct advantage to the shopping experience at the marketplace — which feels more like a gourmet food shop than a warehouse — is that access for forklifts and other machinery has been constructed behind the scenes in such a way that workers will be able to carry out their tasks while remaining out of sight of the customers.
Greco is co-owner of il Mercato along with her sister-in-law, Sara Guttilla. Family members also own Peppino’s Food, Inc. on Station Road in Highland, a restaurant wholesale distribution company opened by Greco’s late husband Sal Guttilla and his brother, Joe. The inspiration for opening a retail location came about when Sal and Joe began getting a lot of requests from people stopping by Peppino’s asking for single items or small amounts of things. Along with that, said Greco, they realized that since Peppino’s closes over the weekend, they aren’t available to serve the restaurants and pizzerias open on Saturday that need supplies on short notice.
So the idea for il Mercato Italian Marketplace was born in the former apple cooler purchased five years ago. Sadly, Sal has since passed away, so Enza serves as president and Joe and his wife, Rosaria, are vice presidents in the company. Greco also credits their store manager, Andrea Sclafani, with helping to get things up and running and using his expertise in software to develop business tools unique to the business.
In addition to co-owning Peppino’s, Sal Guttilla was a professional musician — a multi-instrumentalist and saxophone player — and Enza has a background in theater. With that appreciation of the arts, she says that in the future, she would also like to offer some of the space inside the building to artists to hang their work. There is a lot of room to work with in the building, but Greco wants to be sure to retain the rustic charm of the interior with its old wooden beams. “I love old places, and I like to restore them, not destroy them,” she said. “We’re building everything up slowly.”
Marketplace hours at 85 North Road in Highland are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, call (845) 883-2026 or visit www.ilmercatomarketplace.com.