by Sudie Crouch/contributing writer
Taking over an established business can be a daunting task, especially when the business has been part of the community for as long as Giovanni’s Meats & Deli. But it was a task Matthew and Priscilla Palesh happily dug into.
Founded in 1968, the Cleveland, Ohio-based market had stayed in the Castrataro family for multiple generations until John Castrataro sold the business to the Paleshes in June. The Paleshes took over the beloved business with the intention of maintaining its tradition and community focus while implementing some modern updates.
To help make the transition smooth for the Paleshes (and probably some long-term customers as well), Castrataro stayed on to train Matthew. What stood out the most to the Paleshes during the transition was the level of customer service Castrataro gave his customers.
“Matthew noticed that if a customer had a request that was outside the norm, John never said no,” Priscilla, who is co-owner, said. “He would try to find a solution or get them the product they wanted or something comparable, and if he couldn’t, he apologized. This is precisely the reason customers loved him and were loyal to the store. He wanted to ensure they were completely satisfied with their shopping experience. Not only do we hope to continue that level of customer satisfaction, we want to make it possible on a larger scale to a new generation of consumers.”
To help up the ante on an already strong customer experience, the Paleshes added a few tweaks to modernize Giovanni’s and make shopping easier. The new changes implemented so far include: a new point-of-sale system (which meant adding internet access at the store); a refined inventory management process; and enhanced marketing, which involved a new logo, website and social media. Priscilla said simple things like “de-crowding” shelves, buying new cutting boards and sinks and introducing black butcher paper have enhanced the appearance of the store. Additional staff was added, and the store’s hours were expanded to six days a week.
“In the future, we would love to do a complete remodel, but for now we’re trying to put our dollars towards things that will directly improve the bottom line,” Priscilla said.
In keeping with its tradition, Giovanni’s will continue to be a full-line butcher providing beef, pork, chicken, fish and specialty items like liver and tongue, which Priscilla says are some of the shop’s best sellers.
“We also have a complete deli counter with all the hard-to-find Italian meats and cheeses that are cut to order. Our frozen section consists of some prepared foods, seafood and one of our in-house sausages—a Balkan sausage for grilling called Chivape,” she added.
The store offers specialty items like noodles, pasta sauces, olive oils, wine and beer. Also available are many barbecue sauces and Giovanni’s own seasoning line with some of the regulars like basil, paprika and salt, which Priscilla said they plan to add to in the near future.
The new owners have introduced organic, hormone-free and free-range meats and have perfected their sausage recipes, complete with USDA certification, so they can sell the sausages on a larger scale. The Paleshes also plan to expand operations to supply local restaurants and commercial facilities in the future. Priscilla added that they hope to introduce lunch specials, a baked goods line and catering, among other future plans.
The only change the Paleshes plan on making to the customer service level is to enhance it by offering even more personalized service.
“Many customers have been coming to Giovanni’s for 30-plus years and know exactly what they’re coming in for and how much it’s going to be—to the penny,” Priscilla said. “However, we are getting an increasing number of people who need help planning a dinner party, buying a gift for a family member, or wanting assistance selecting a leaner cut of meat that’s more diet-friendly. Matthew loves this and so do the rest of the staff. Not only does it allow them to interact with customers, it creates a customer loyalty that is going to help us grow and prosper. We are blessed to have a knowledgeable team with a combined 60 years in the food industry—that’s what makes that level of customer service possible.”