Tuesday, April 15, 2008

All Together Now at Fisher-Fazio's

The Fisher-Fazio family is gathered together for this “family photo” from 1975. Even Uncle Ralph from Chicago drove in, with his bag of groceries from Dominick’s. (Just seeing that 70’s Dominick’s bag makes my arms hurt, when I think back on how many hundreds of those things I lugged from the family gas guzzler’s trunk to our kitchen back then. Definitely more good memories than bad of those days, though…) Along the wall are displays of Heritage House canned goods, Fisher-Fazio’s house brand, that were big sellers in the Ohio and Chicago stores.

Things began to unravel at Fisher-Fazio in the late seventies, with most of their divisions not faring well in the “price wars” of that era. In 1976, the company lost its number one slot in their core Cleveland area to Pick-N-Pay. The California stores, which had never really taken off under Fisher-Fazio leadership, proved to be a drain on the company’s profits and as mentioned were sold off to Albertsons that year. Within a couple of years, they would trim the sails in markets closer to home, including Youngstown and Columbus among others.

In October 1980, the company found itself in serious legal (and public relations) trouble when it was charged in a price-fixing scheme along with competitors Stop-N-Shop and First National Stores, owner of Cleveland’s Pick-N-Pay chain. Executives from the three companies, including Fisher CEO John Fazio, were indicted. Fazio received probation in 1982, and his sentence was commuted two years later. The three companies were ultimately forced to make restitution to Northeast Ohio customers, sending out coupons for $20 worth of free groceries to some one million households.

The company lost one of its major (and only) bright spots in 1981. Unhappy with Fisher's direction, Dominick DiMatteo Jr. bought back Dominick’s, the company his father founded, for nearly $100 million. By that time Dominick’s had grown to 71 stores and second place (behind Jewel) in Chicago market share.

In 1983, Cincinnati-based American Financial Corp., headed by Carl H. Lindner, purchased an interest in Fisher Foods. Lindner is a well-known Cincinnati industrialist, whose interests have included Chiquita Brands International (yep, the banana company is actually based in Cincinnati), United Dairy Farmers (a chain of dairy/convenience stores) and for a time, a major interest in the Cincinnati Reds. In 1984, Lindner’s company would buy out the Fazio family’s holdings in Fisher Foods, ending an era.

The economic difficulties – loss of manufacturing jobs, population decline, etc., which plagued the Cleveland area made for a difficult operating environment, and in 1987 American Financial decided to sell their controlling share in Fisher Foods to a group of familiar names in the Cleveland grocery industry. A new entity, named for a Bedford Heights, Ohio address - “5300 Richmond Road Corporation”, was put together by American Seaway Foods, Rini’s Stop-N-Shop and Rego’s Stop-N-Shop. In a way, the forming of this consortium was reminiscent of the process that reconstituted Fisher Foods back in the sixties. The “5300” company would fold into Riser Foods, the name of which incorporated (sort of) the first initials of the Rini, Seaway and Rego names. In 1997, Riser was absorbed into Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle.

12 comments:

  1. Are you sure this isn't my family? The guy all the way to the right resembles my dad when he was much younger (and thinner). LOL!

    I also love Uncle Ralph's plaid fedora which I actually think is back in style! Ask him if I can have that Dominick's bag.

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  2. I totally remember those fisher/fazio bags. My mom used to buy Heritage House brand cookies, if she ever bought cookies at all, and I recall they weren't very good....

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  3. You should ask your dad, Didi! They're all wearing that 70's look, that's for sure.

    As far as the Dominick's bag goes, wished I'd saved one as well. The everyday items always got tossed, and are now prizes on Ebay.

    St. Pete - I don't think ever tried the cookies (that kind of thing always suffers with store brands), but we used a lot of other Heritage House stuff.

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  4. Not a picture of anyone in the Fazio family../

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  5. I might be able to come with some pictures of the Fazio's. I have quite a bit of stuff on them.

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  6. Hello! This is a great find. My name is Matt Fazio and I am grandson to John Fazio Sr.

    Finding this site was a real trip down memory lane... Some good memories, some not so good. But it's nice to read the overall favorable comments.

    John Fazio Sr. is still alive at a spry 88, and is living in retirement in Dallas, TX. I used to spend every Sunday with him up until my wife and I had our second kid.

    I was in my early teens when the Fazio's chain was in the beginnings of it's fall, and can field a lot of questions any of you have.

    Interesting site, will read on it a bit more...

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    Replies
    1. rebecca sheppardJune 30, 2014 at 3:50 PM

      I loved fazios chocolate chip cookies and have been trying to find the recipe for decades. I was hoping that you had the bakery recipe. I used to buy them in fairlawn all the time

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  7. Matt - Thanks very much, it's great to hear from you. I'm glad you found the site. As to your comment about the good and not so good memories, as I was researching for the posts, I was saddened to read about the struggles your family went through during what was a difficult era for so many retailers. I am very glad to hear that your grandfather is alive and well.

    I can only speak from my family's experience shopping at the Fazio-owned Dominick's stores in Chicago from the late 60's through the early 80's that they were superb stores. I'm very confident that those readers of this site who grew up shopping there as well would say the same thing. It's truly a legacy to be proud of.

    My best regards to you and your grandfather, and I'd welcome the chance to ask you some questions at some point. My email address is in the "profile" section of the page if you'd care to send along your contact info.

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  8. I remember Heritage House products. They really were well regarded.

    I also remember that when Van Aken Shopping was remodelled in the 1970s, that Fisher Fazio lost its toehold in Shaker Heights and it just sort of withered away. Pick n'Pay closed its store at Van Aken and it was replaced by a large drugstore. The loss of Pick n'Pay just a few stores down from Fisher Fazio hurt Fazio's because people were drawn up to Pavillion in Beachwood that featured the new Pick n' Pay store (and lots and lots parking).

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  9. I always loved shopping as a kid with my Grandpa at "Fisher Fazio's." We lived around the block from Sears off of I-90, which is also gone now. Miss those days - good memories! Thanks for posting about them!

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  10. Anonymous - You're welcome - glad this brought some fond memories for you! I have many fond memories of shopping with my grandparents. Seems like they endure with a lot of us!

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  11. Came up on this blog and are from Chesterland, went to high school with Bob Fazio, just wondered what he's doing. Fond memories of the store and Bob, my friend Terry Rivacuk Walsh and myself, Michele Lupica Lillie are still friends and we live in Florida, maybe Bob remembers us!
    Enjoyed reading about the stores history.

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