For a business to survive for a quarter century, the owners must be doing something right. To blossom, as Joe Caputo & Sons has, from a 10,000-square-foot corner market to a chain of three stores covering 140,000 square feet, that’s another level of success altogether.
What’s their secret?
“Great quality,” Joe Caputo notes.
“Great value,” older son Nat chimes in.
“Great service,” younger son Vito adds.
The Caputo saga actually began more than a century ago in Mola di Bari, where Joe’s parents, Natale and Caterina, ran a grocery store. When his father came to America to pave the way for the rest of his family, 16-year-old Giuseppe stayed behind to mind the store. “It was a lot of responsibility,” he recalls. “I learned a lot.”
After doing factory and construction work, Joe opened a successful pizzeria, which he ran for several years. Along the way, he married Anna Lieggi and started a family of his own.
Joe worked for his brother Angelo of Angelo Caputo’s Fresh Markets fame for nearly 20 years before opening the first Joe Caputo & Sons in Des Plaines in 1989. “My dad did this for us,” Vito explains. “He asked if we wanted to start a market of our own and we were all in.”
Nat and Vito were 21 and 19 respectively, and as they grew as grocers, so did the chain. A 55,000-square-foot store was added in Palatine in 2005, and a 75,000-square-foot store was built in Algonquin in 2007.
“As big as our newer stores are, they still have that old-school feel,” Nat says. “We know a lot of our customers by name, we pay attention to what they need, and we give them the best quality and value possible.”
Nat handles operations, Vito does all the produce buying, and although Joe is officially retired, you can still find him at the Des Plaines store at the crack of dawn, helping the staff set up for the day.
“My dad laid a great foundation for us,” Nat says. “He taught us everything he knew, gave us the tools we needed, and pointed us in the right direction.”
Nat is particularly proud of his brother’s contribution to the enterprise. “Vito is down at the market every day, picking out the freshest produce at the best price. There is no middleman,” Nat notes. “My father taught him well, and Vito is a master at what he does.”
There’s so much more for the Caputos to be proud of, including pastries and breads baked from scratch, a meat department run by skilled butchers, a deli stocked with quality meats and cheeses, and a full line of grocery items that include all your favorite Italian specialties.
There are gems in each department, including Joe Caputo & Sons’ signature cannoli, Italian beef and Italian sausage, all of which are handcrafted in house, and a wide variety of Caputo brand cheese products from Wiscon Corp., which is run by Joe’s brother Pasquale.
And after 25 years in the business, there’s so much for the Caputos to be grateful for. “We couldn’t have done this without our staff: they do such a great job, and they’re so good with the customers,” Nat explains. “And our customers? They’re like family. Without them, we’d be nothing, and we try to thank them every day in everything we do.”
Joe Caputo and Sons