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Serrelli’s Finer Foods

serrelli1As you walk up to the gleaming new storefront on North Avenue in Galewood, a large automatic sliding door sweeps open and you hear, “Welcome to Serrelli’s. It’s our grand re-opening today.” And grand it truly is.

For nearly 80 years, Serrelli’s Finer Foods has been a grand name in the industry that’s guaranteed to bring a smile. From the first grocery store that Louis Serrelli opened at Western and Huron in 1934, the Serrelli family has been all about great products and friendly service.

“When my grandfather came over from Calabria in the 1930s, he had the philosophy that people had to eat and drink,” recalls Patti Serrelli Hereau. “So why not make them happy?”

Rich memories of food fill Patti’s mind and heart.

“We used to congregate on Sunday’s after church in the back of the store, and my grandmother would make the most delicious Sunday meals,” Patti recalls. “We had pots of wonderful food on the stove and that’s how we grew up.”

Patti literally grew up at Serrelli’s Finer Foods, working alongside her dad, the legendary Danny Serrelli, throughout her elementary and high school years. It was when her dad joined her grandfather in the business that the duo concocted the family’s now-famous recipe for Italian beef — a recipe that would put the Serrelli name on the map.

Father and son would later move the store to 4150 W. North Ave., and then to its present location at 6454 W. North Ave. — an establishment that now roasts 1,500 pounds of Italian beef at a time for wholesale and retail sales.

In 2002, during Patti’s professional career in advertising, she and her late husband, Bill, launched Serrelli Street (www.serrelli-st.com), an e-commerce website aimed at generating additional sales.

“I started Serrelli Street so I didn’t have to be in the store every day,” she recalls. “There was a method to my madness.”

Her method proved eminently sane, and sales across the country blossomed. “We have a ton of transplants who left Chicago and were clamoring for our beef,” Patti explains.

Grand success followed. It was time for Patti to change careers. “My husband passed away in 2009, and I came to Serrelli’s full-time,” she says. “My dad passed away in 2010 at the age of 89, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Serrelli’s always has been a thriving business, but a year ago, Patti saw another opportunity for change. “I’ve always wanted to have a beef stand,” she says.

Closing her doors only for a couple of days, Patti pulled off a massive renovation that was a year in the planning, growing Serrelli’s into a light, airy, 6,400-square-foot store — complete with the beef stand she had long dreamed of.

Italian beef production and shipping still goes on in the back of the store, but what customers see walking into the new Serrelli’s are rows of American groceries and Italian favorites, a deli section filled with fresh meats, freezers along the west wall laden with ready-to-eat delicacies made from time-tested family recipes and a refrigerated section along the east wall.

And tucked in the northeast corner of the store? The soon-to-be famous Serrelli’s beef stand, serving piping hot sandwiches of Serrelli’s legendary Italian beef.

“I have recreated my life, and it’s everything I could possibly want it to be,” Patti says. “I thank my grandfather and father. I think food is love and food brings family together, and that’s how I feel about it and where I’m coming from with this store.”

A grand vision, and one that we’re all glad came true.

Serrelli’s Finer Foods is located at 6454 W. North Ave. in Chicago. For details, call 773-237-7530 or visit www.serrelli-st.com.

About Lissa Druss Christman

Nine-time Emmy award winner Lissa Druss Christman is a veteran communications strategist specializing in public affairs, crisis communications and public relations. She also brings more than two decades of experience as a news and sports television producer to bear on behalf of her clients. She is the chairman of the board of directors of The Jarrett Payton Foundation, a member of the National Italian American Foundation and a volunteer with the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans and the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompeii. Lissa spent more than a decade with Bears Care, the charitable arm of the Chicago Bears.