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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Grocery Celebrates 100 Years


Vince Maggio takes care of his customers 

Pulling up to Maggio’s Grocery and Deli is an experience that’s quickly passing from the American scene. You have to open the door for yourself, no automatic opener. You step into a sensory explosion of sights, sounds and smells that somehow overcome and comfort at the same time.

The aisles are close and teeming with merchandise, and the noise level is high but seems to embrace rather than suffocate. The store is clean, crowded, familiar and not corporate. It looks like home.

Vince Maggio is probably standing behind the cash register, his wife Sharon at his side, taking care of business. On this day, three customers were conversing with the Maggios without saying a word. Their hands were doing the talking with American Sign Language, and Mr. Maggio was keeping pace like a pro.

Later, he explained, “Those three customers are deaf. They live in one of my rent houses. When they first came here, they couldn’t get water [service] in their name. I said, put the water bill in my name. They pay me every month. You got to help people. I’ve got a handicapped sister, I know. So, I help them out.”

That, in a nutshell, is Vince Maggio, third-generation grocer, entrepreneur, city councilman, Italian, a man of God and American patriot. He comes from a lineage of Italian immigrants who came to America’s shore with a love of God, life, food, family and a strong work ethic. Fairly new to America, Sam and Mary Maggio, Vince’s grandparents, bought the store in 1923 and moved their family into the brick home behind it.

“Grandpa fought for the country,” Vince explained. “He said Jesus is first, your country second, and your family is third. They never had a vacation, my grandpa and grandma. They went to church on Sunday. After 10:30 (Mass), they came and opened up until 10 o’clock at night. Six days a week, they opened from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Maggios had three sons: Vince, Joe and Charlie Maggio. Vince explained, “Charlie was my daddy. And Uncle Joe and Daddy ran the store after Grandpa and Grandma retired. They still worked here. My Uncle Vince had a store in Haughton.

“I’ve been here almost all my life. Took over from Uncle Joe and Daddy in 1985 full-time. They still were in here. They were scared to let go. I said, ‘Daddy, I got new ideas coming in.’ But they didn’t like some. But you gotta change with the times.”

The store is a fixture at the corner of Thompson and Third in old Bossier City. It harkens back to a time when the corner grocery was a staple of American life. The Maggios are making sure this example lives on. “God blessed me and my wife to be here this long,” he said. “I’m glad we’re making a hundred years, mostly for grandpa and grandma and my mother and daddy and my uncle. My Uncle Joe was like another dad to me. When you’re a close Italian family, it’s like having two mommas and two daddies. They raised us.”

That raising included some very old-school Italian lessons, which Vince Maggio is determined to pay forward to the new generations. “We put a flag on our store to honor America. You’ve got to have Jesus. I don’t care what religion you want to believe in. You believe in Jesus. Go grab you a church, I don’t care what religion, as long as it loves Jesus Christ. You’re honest and work hard and fight for your country, you’ll have what I got. I’m born Catholic. My mother was Southern Baptist. They got married in two churches, Catholic and Baptist. So, they were double hooked. They brought us up to love all religions and thank Jesus for everything.”

It’s a habit Vince hasn’t forgotten. His talk is sprinkled with liberal doses of thanksgiving to his faith, his family and his customers.

“I’ve got great customers. They take care of us; I take care of them. It’s like three or four generations. Now I’m trying to train these young kids to teach them what Jesus is.”

Part of that training happens down Third Street at Cumberland Farms, a project Vince started with Pastor Mark Rodie three years ago to help teach the local kids about self-sufficiency and fellowship.

“These kids today weren’t brought up the way we were. We teach them to be safe, pray for everybody, be happy, put the guns down, pick up the Bible.

“We’re up to 55 kids this year. Last year was 40-something. It’s been three years, 30 kids the first year. They raise the veggies, take ’em home and eat. Take ’em to their families, uncles, grandpas. We have Bible study on Thursday night from 5:30 to 7:30. We feed ’em. It’s really good fellowship.”

Cumberland Farms is situated on lots that Vince’s grandfather originally owned. He said the soil is so rich it can grow anything, and he and Rodie are tilling the soil to raise a new crop of young people who know gardening, good neighboring and the good Lord.

Two years ago, Vince ran for and was elected to a seat on the Bossier City Council, a post he truly loves. “When I do something, I do it 110%. I love the council job. If you voted for me, if you didn’t vote for me, you pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. I’m just here for you. I’m working for the people of Bossier City. I love this city and the people in the city. I want to give back to my community. I was born and raised in this town. I know every inch of District Five, so I ran, and I won, and I thank God for it.”

That deep reservoir of affection was fed by the history that permeates the store, like the colorful merchandise packages and friendly conversations. It sits very near to Red River, and when the river would hit flood, the water made a temporary avenue to Maggio’s Grocery. Vince said the big ships parked on the river. The little ships came up behind the store and shopped with his grandparents before continuing their journey to deliver their wares. “This store fed more people in the Depression – black eyed peas and cornbread. My grandpa and grandma and all the good old people back here, they worked as a family. They fed everybody.”

The Maggios are still at it because there are still people who need to be fed, both body and soul.

“There are so many kids starving for Jesus,” Vince said. “We’ve got more churches today and fewer people believe in Jesus. That’s what gets me.”

But he’s not giving up. “I’ve been here all my life and I want to honor my grandfather and my grandma, my dad and my uncle, and my momma and my Aunt Grace for the years they put in, too. If you do a grocery store, it ain’t about the money. It’s about the love. I can’t stay home.”

And that’s what it feels like when you go through those non-motorized doors. It feels like going home.

A woman is baptised by Pastor Mike Rodie.

Vince Maggio and family.


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