The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Opinion

April 29, 2013

Marks grocery a pioneer for ethnic specialty shops

An Editor's Notes

---- — On a recent trip to Pittsburgh, I strolled through the Strip District, of course. In addition to giving a regular donation at the Rivers Casino, walking the strip is one of my favorite Pittsburgh pastimes.

It’s got that old-world charm, with vendors selling their goods, in addition to the specialty stores and other shops. You can feel the history there while enjoying the age-old traditions.

When I was walking through the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co., one of the must-stops when I’m there, I recalled that how on a much smaller scale, the former Marks Grocery in Farrell served the Shenango Valley residents for decades.

When I was a kid growing up in an Italian household in Farrell, it was a regular stop for my parents and my grandfather. The store, which featured Italian specialties and has been closed for several years, is located at Roemer Boulevard and Hamilton Avenue.

It was only about four blocks from my grandfather’s house on Emerson Avenue near Idaho Street, and we most times would walk down Hamilton, past the former Little League field, and up the one-block hill to Marks.

It was a gathering spot for shoppers from throughout the valley. The store, which was in the family for more than a century, was attached to the Marks’ home. Shoppers often could be found sitting around the kitchen table talking and snacking, either before shopping or after they were finished.

Although it has been years since I have been in the store, a visit to a place like the Strip District brings back all of the aromas of the meats, cheeses, olives and fishes that I experienced in my youth.

I was never a fan of olives (true to this day, except for green ones stuffed with pimientos) but I was amazed at the activity around them as shoppers would scoop out their favorite varieties.

My favorite as a kid (true to this day as well) was the aged, very sharp provolone cheese that my grandfather would buy. I tease my daughter, who is a fan of sliced provolone, but the very mild variety that is popular in delicatessens in area grocery stores..

I tell her regularly, “That’s not provolone,” as a describe the variety that had such a bite you would feel it on tongue and gums as you savored it.

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