I don’t remember the exact age at which I leanred to greet customers, ring out their purchaes and dispense their change, but I do know that without a doubt, it happened at Massara’s Market on Butler Street in Pittston. No, Tony and Gilda Massara are not child labor enthusiasts — they are simply my grandparents, and their store was a place that my cousins and I grew up.
Some of my fondest memories of childhood involve sitting in the back room of the store, coloring on the butcher paper, creating puppets out of paper bags and hearing my grandmother tell her customers how thrilled she was that my cousins and I were there to spend time with her.
As we got older, we loved to help Noni (Gilda) and Nono (Tony) with the business side of things too. We learned to operate a price gun, to fill shelves and, of course, to help customers. From watching our granparents interact with their patrons, one might think their clientele is really their old friends, and, in truth, that is what some of them have become.
Many customers planned to spend quite a bit of time in the store when they came to visit. Not because there is a ever a long wait, but because once they got chatting with Noni about their families and lives, they knew they could be there a while.
On the other end of spectrum is Nono, who always jokes, “Why should I have to talk? She talks enough both of us combined!”
My granparents took over Massara’s Market from my great grabndparents over 30 years ago, and some of their best customers have been coming there for almost all of those years.
“In all these years, the customers really do become like friends,” said Noni. “You learn a lot about other peple when you run a business, and if you’re nice to them they keep coming back.”
The amount of cards, flowers, phone calls and other well wishes my grandparents haver received in the past few weeks really proves that outlook true. Most of these customers expressed sadness in the store’s closing, and some people even begged for them to keep the business a while longer! However, the overwhelming sentiment from everyone was gratitude for providing great food, excellent service and a cheerful smile to every customer throughout the years.
I think Noni and Nono’s customers have managed to capture the bittersweet feelings my family has had about their retirement. Though it is sad to see such a huge part of all of our lives ending, we are all so very thrilled for their next chapter to begin! Despite any changes that may come over the years, Massara’s Market will have a special place in our hearts and minds forever.