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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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WWI and After for G.B. Russo

by Kim Rush, John Russo, and Martin Starr

G.B. helped his mother-in-law, Concetta Amante, sell groceries out of her home on Sheldon SE, located just a few blocks from his store, while Concetta’s husband, Joseph (Giuseppi) Amante was serving in World War I. G.B. set up a grocery store in Concetta's living room to help support Concetta and her children. They also partnered to purchase rental homes located in the Italian neighborhood. G.B. also bought and sold commercial rental properties in both Grand Rapids and Detroit, but eventually lost all of the Detroit real estate during the Depression.

When Joseph Amante returned from the war, he was involved in the produce business, selling out of his truck.  In later years, he pushed a carretino (cart) loaded with produce through the alleys, peddling to the Italian neighborhood.

Throughout the 1920s, G.B. continued to operate his grocery store and pasta factory, but he also delivered goods to other west Michigan communities. He loaded his horse drawn wagon, and later his truck or car with groceries and traveled to Kalamazoo, Grand Haven, Holland, and Muskegon, selling bread, pasta, cheese, olive oil and other Italian food specialties. Orders, often placed in advance, were individually wrapped in paper and were marked by price.

When countertop pinball machines began to appear in the early 1930s, G.B. placed them in recreation halls around West Michigan. He eventually abandoned this endeavor because he did not know how to obtain repair for the machines once they became broken.


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