When Jimmy Corrado started his business in the 1960s, it was with one truck from which he sold wholesale goods, including fresh produce, flowers, and California juice grapes. Over the years, the truck’s inventory grew, and Corrado eventually moved to the Patterson farmer’s market.
From there, he acquired an abandoned supermarket in Clifton, fixed it up, and expanded his inventory to include cheese, eggs, and meats. By the mid 1970s, the business had grown from a small tent in the farmer’s market to Corrado’s Family Affair—the first iteration of what is now Corrado’s Market, a bustling grocery store catering to Italian, Latin, and Arabic nationalities.
“There was a huge Italian population in Clifton years ago, but it’s changed a lot,” said Paul Corrado, owner, vice president, and grandson to founder Jimmy. “Now we have a lot of Spanish, Arabic, and Eastern European customers. Our Italian items still do very well here, but we have started to import from Turkey and Spain and Bulgaria—all different areas to accommodate the majority of people here.”
Spirit of innovation
That spirit of innovation has served the business well over the years. From its first store in Patterson, which primarily focused on produce, Corrado’s Market has grown and now covers a 40-acre property. On those 40 acres, customers will find the 65,000-square-foot Corrado’s Market, a wholesale warehouse, a garden center, a home beer and wine making center, and a gas station with additional retail space.
In the supermarket, customers see aisles packed to capacity with imported specialty products, produce, fresh meat, fish, and deli and baked goods. “Any time you come to Corrado’s Market, it’s very cluttered,” said Corrado. “Product is all over. Our motto is every square foot of the store is valuable, so don’t leave anything open or empty. It’s always got to be filled with massive, massive displays. That’s just how we do it. No square foot goes unused in this establishment.”
The 150,000-square-foot warehouse, which is across the street from the supermarket, helps Corrado’s Market keep its prices consistently low by giving the family a place to store items it orders in bulk. With four walk-in refrigerator boxes, a state-of-the-art freezer that hold 230 pallets, 12 full-functioning banana gas rooms, and hours stretching from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., the warehouse enables Corrado’s to offer its wholesale customers, such as restaurants, stores, pizzerias, and delis, the same customer service, quality, and low-cost goods as its supermarket.
The warehouse receives trailer deliveries of fresh produce from the US daily, fresh fish from markets in the area each morning, and fine cheese from around the world. “If I see the market or the Euro is going to jump, I try to make a little sense of how it will play out and use that information to decide when to buy and when not to,” said Corrado.
In late 2007, Corrado’s Market ventured into a new industry. With 40 trucks on the road for the wholesale delivery side of its business, when gas prices started rising and the lines to purchase gas started growing, the company purchased a local gas station to solve both problems. From there, the company started offering its lower-priced gas to the public, and, today, the station pumps about 10,000 gallons a day.
“We bought that gas station to fill our own trucks, and from there we decided to put a cheap price out there because we’re doing it on everything else we sell,” Corrado said. “Especially in these hard economic times, with the gas prices fluctuating, it’s just paid off.”
Secret of success
From 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., 364 days a year, any time customers come to Corrado’s Market, they’re sure to find a Corrado family member there. As one of the third generation of Corrados to be in the family business, Paul even admits to pulling 70- to 75-hour workweeks, but he does it without complaint.
“I don’t know how many chain stores you can go to and find the president or one of the owners of the shop actually working a register, doing a void, or dealing with the day-to-day operations,” he said. “I interact with my employees all day long every day. I feel that has a lot to do with why we’re successful today.”
The philosophy continued to pay off in September when Corrado’s Market opened its second location in Wayne, NJ. Many of the customers who came to the Clifton store were from the Wayne area, and, after hearing requests to have a new Corrado’s Market location, the family decided to expand.
And they were right on target. According to reports, when the doors opened at 7 a.m., customers had already been waiting for 30 minutes for a first glimpse of the new store. Located in an 88,000-square-foot shopping center the Corrado family purchased, the 40,000-square-foot Corrado’s Market pays homage to its roots with posters dating back to the 1930s.
There are a few differences between the two locations, with more prepared foods and smaller containers of staples like olive oil at the Wayne Location. But the same low-price guarantee and customer service is a promise Corrado said the new location will keep.
“Our basic mentality throughout the years, from my grandfather down, is to have larger buying power and massive shows and displays, especially in produce,” Corrado said. “We have cheaper prices, and we turn the product over quickly to maintain the freshest quality.”
“My grandfather always said a fast nickel is better than a slow dime any day of the week,” he continued. “That mentality was instilled into my father and his two brothers, and then it came down to the seven grandsons who run the business today. That tight-knit family feel is how we keep the employees happy, how we take care of them, and how we make sure we’re taking care of our customers.”