Tetta’s Market: the next generation - BlueStone Press
March 30, 2020

Tetta’s Market: the next generation

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As long as almost anyone in the Samsonville area could remember, Tetta’s Market stood at the crossroads of county routes 2 and 3, aka Kripplebush-Krumville Road and Samsonville Road, the only place for miles around to get a sandwich, grab some groceries or gas up your car. But one day in July 2018, the market went dark. A sign on the door said only, “Closed – Sorry for the inconvenience,” and although there was also a message about reopening soon, the neighborhood waited in vain.

Last August, another sign appeared on the window. “Rest in peace, Pop-Pop.” Then the neighborhood knew that Fred Tetta, father, grandfather and proprietor of the store alongside his wife, Anna, since 1971, was gone from this world.

More time passed. But some months ago, there were signs that something was happening. New siding went up on the building, and a new roof. Curious passersby noticed that there was new construction inside the store, too.

Now it’s official: Tetta’s will soon be back. Primo Stropoli, son of Joanne Tetta Stropoli, grandson of Fred and Anna Tetta, and great-grandson of the original owners, Joseph and Maria Tetta, will be taking the reins. One recent Sunday, Primo and his mother, Joanne, stopped by the store to reminisce about the past and talk about the reopening.

Primo is well aware of how unusual it is, in this transient age, for any business to stay in one family for four generations.

“This is my career, I'm making it my future,” he said. Joanne made it clear that “it’s going to be Primo’s show,” but Primo wanted to give credit where credit was due: “No one could do this by themselves. It takes a family, and even more, it takes a community. We’ve had tremendous help from neighbors, friends, people that know my grandparents.”

Primo and his father, Richard Stropoli, have been working on renovating the building for almost a year. Outside, it looks fresher, with its new roughcut siding and new roof, but otherwise unchanged. The interior definitely has a new look. Where the old space was cozy and rather dark, it is now airy, bright and open. A side space where shelves of canned goods used to be will now be dedicated to homemade pizza, with a small seating area. Richard, who briefly operated a pizza shop within the store 20 years ago, will be making the pies, at least until Primo learns the fine art of pizza creation.

What they'll have on the shelves: the same as before “but more variety,” said Primo. They’ll still offer cold cut sandwiches and of course have basics like milk, eggs, and beer, he affirmed, but if there seems to be an interest from customers, they will add some local and organic goods. “Whether you live at Hudson Woods [a high-end development near Samsonville] or you live across the street,” you’ll find what you need at Tetta’s. “A one-stop-shop, really.”

Joanne: “If we can get half the stuff that Mom and Dad used to have … that would be a lot. At one time, they had so much! ‘You got a thimble?’ You'd look on the rack, and there's a thimble! ‘You don't have baby food?’ We’d have baby food. ‘You don't happen to have a can opener?’ We’d have a can opener. Mom and Dad took pride in that. They had everything. Name something! Dad would go in the back, and there it would be. It was pretty cool, because you're in the middle of nowhere.”

Primo: “When I was younger and friends would come over to play I'd bring ’em down here, and before we'd walk in I'd say, ‘Name something.’ As far as I can remember, no one was able to name something we didn't have … it might not be exactly what you needed, but it’d work!"

Joanne recalled her grandfather Joseph’s stock as pretty minimal, “four or five loaves of bread, a couple of pieces of cold cut meat. And Grandpa had these two little sliding doors, with the bologna, the salami, the ham, a couple of six packs … a couple of six packs of Yoo-hoo …”

Primo: “My grandfather Fred, he really expanded the business within a decade of buying it from my great-grandfather Joseph. And I see the same thing kind of happening now.”

In the beginning, circa 1952, Tetta’s Market wasn’t on the corner. Joseph and Marie Tetta, first-generation Italian-Americans, lived in the Bronx. They came up to the area on vacation and decided to pull up stakes. They rented half of a garage space on Krumville Road, got a gas pump, and started a store from there. Around 1959 or ’60, Joseph bought the land at the crossroads and built the store that still stands today. Fred, his son, bought it in 1971. “It was built when I was born,” recalled Joanne. Over the years, everybody in the family was involved in running the store, including Fred and Anna’s children, Diane, Debbie, Anthony and Joanne, and then Primo and his cousins Natalie and Justin (children of Diane). Through the new copper paint on the central poles helping to hold up the ceiling you can still make out the marks for Primo’s and his cousins’ heights as they grew.

“My dad and I have done 99% of the renovations ourselves,” Primo said with justifiable pride. Often, in his opinion, when someone from out of the area buys a building and hires a crew to gut-renovate it, “the place looks nice, but somehow it's got no soul.” No one could ever say that about Tetta's Market. Primo and his father stripped away four layers of linoleum to get down to the cement slab laid down when his great-granddad Joseph constructed the store around 1959 or ’60. "It's like archaeological excavation," he chuckled, pointing out a few footprints visible in the cement, now coated with a glossy finish. Joanne added the interesting fact that this floor was made from Rosendale cement, once famed as some of the hardest on the planet. "It takes decades to fully cure," said Primo. (The Statue of Liberty's base and the Brooklyn Bridge also contain Rosendale cement.) Primo is repainting all the old shelving, keeping the red Coca-Cola 1950s-era cooler and other reminders of the past, while adding his own stamp. The newly built counter is a long piece of roughcut pine, cut and milled by Richard Gray, a family friend. Joanne said, "Richie Gray, who cut the trees for us, was like, ‘I want to make you a countertop.’ He milled roughcut for Primo to finish the outside … I'm talking above and beyond!” It sits over unpainted panels of corrugated steel, for a rustic yet somehow very modern effect. A new tin ceiling throws a soft, reflected glow.

Out in the Samsonville area, in the lap of the Catskills, there aren’t many community gathering places other than the church, the firehouse and Tetta’s Market. “This is the only place around, and I look at it as almost a responsibility. You have to provide for the community,” commented Primo.

“I never realized how much people actually cared about this store. It means a lot to us because it's our family's business, but the community, they have memories here as well … I created a social media account, and the amount of following and support on social media – likes, comments and shares … Tetta's Market does better than some huge businesses!”

Richard Stropoli retired last year, so he’ll have time to help run the business, especially the pizzeria, which he briefly tried in the past – but the time wasn’t right. Now it is. Joanne, still working at Onteora School, will have time to pitch in when school is out.

It will be the biggest event in Samsonville for a long, long time when Tetta’s Market opens its doors once again. Primo’s target date for the grand reopening is May 1. You can look for updates, and see some fun archival snapshots of the old Tetta’s, on the tettasmarket Facebook and Instagram accounts.

 

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