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.