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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Food Inspector Visits G.B. Russo

by Kim Rush, John Russo, and Martin Starr

Starting around 1909, the state began conducting regular safety and sanitation inspections of G.B.’s store equipment and his property. In 1912 he was cited for needed repairs of loose steps to the basement, and was required to install a guard over a setscrew on his dough mixer. It appears that the machinery he used to make macaroni was potentially dangerous. Over a decade later his daughter Rose got her clothing caught in the macaroni making machine and could have been crushed,” according to her sister Jennie.

Deputy state food inspector William Mickle visited G.B.’s store and macaroni factory less than a month after his wife’s death in early 1913. He found cats and a horse in the same building where Russo was making macaroni. When Mickle returned to further investigate in December, he was still not satisfied with the sanitary conditions in the factory. To make it even more embarrassing for G.B., results of the inspection were published in the Grand Rapids Press. Between these visits from Mickle, Russo had emptied the basement and scrubbed it clean in compliance with a prior request. When Mickle threatened him with arrest, Russo clearly reflected his frustration, stating that nine months ago his wife had died and left him with three children to care for. “I have hard luck and can’t look after my children and (also) do what you tell me.”[1] (10) Around this time G.B. hired a nurse to look after his children while he was working.

John Russo described the various locations of the portable macaroni factory: “The original Russo property was located at 746 thru 752 Division (post 1912 numbering). It was basically all one building. The pasta (macaroni) making machinery was portable. The pasta factory was located at the rear and sometimes in the basement of 746, so it was possible for horses to be found in or near the rear portion of this building. There was a stable there originally and later it became a car garage. Eventually the pasta equipment was moved to an enclosed back porch situated behind the second floor Russo family apartments at 752 ½ S. Division.”


[1] Grand Rapids Press, 12.2.1913, as well as the following day, 12.3.1913


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