From Slurpees to craft beer – the history of Siciliano’s Market
Back in the days when Stroh’s was the only brewery in Michigan, skunked imports were the only alternatives to mass-produced American lagers, and brewing beer at home was still illegal, Steve Siciliano was slinging Slurpees at the 7-Eleven franchise he owned on north Plainfield Avenue in Grand Rapids, MI. After owning the 7-Eleven for five years he took his Slurpee-generated equity, bought an established convenience store in the Creston Heights neighborhood, and changed the name to Siciliano’s Market.
Steve soon realized how important it is for a local business to play an integral part in the community. He established a program that awarded neighborhood children “Scholar Dollars” for getting good grades in school, convinced the Grand Rapids post office that his store would be a good location for a substation, made it a priority to know his customers by name, and was active in the neighborhood and business associations. Steve incorporated marketing and merchandising techniques that he learned while he owned the 7-Eleven and the little store prospered. But because the location was not conducive to selling fine wine, something Steve had developed a passion for, he decided to sell the store after eight years of ownership. Steve then bought an established but failing business on Lake Michigan Drive and took the Siciliano’s Market name with him.
The first five years at the second incarnation of Siciliano’s Market were anything but easy. Steve inherited an inventory that consisted of liquor, stale chips, dusty canned goods, a scattering of out-dated groceries and, like every other “party store” in town, coolers filled primarily with mass-produced American lager. Despite renovating the store, the poor business continued and he began wondering if Siciliano’s Market would make it.
Thankfully, things were beginning to change in the American beer scene. Innovators like Larry Bell and Jim Koch were beginning to produce and market hand-crafted beer and brewing beer at home was no longer illegal. Steve decided to take advantage of these changes. He began to focus on the “esoteric” beers that few other stores were stocking and, rather than just selling this beer in the traditional packaging, he encouraged customers to buy these beers as singles. When a three-foot section of beer making supplies was added, Siciliano’s Market had finally found its niche.
Steve, his wife Barb, and a staff of dedicated and passionate employees are proud of the fact that Siciliano’s Market has evolved into one of West Michigan’s premier specialty stores. A few offerings of craft beers have grown to be hundreds, and recently a thousand square feet of retail space has been added to accommodate the growing inventory of beer-, wine-, bread- and cheese-making supplies. But despite the fact that the business has grown, Steve’s core philosophy hasn’t changed – he still believes a retail business should play an integral part of the community it’s in. That’s why a visit to our store comes with that old-fashioned, friendly neighborhood feel, the kind of feeling that makes each trip to Siciliano’s Market just as enjoyable as the one before.