It’s a magnificent American success story that began in the early 1920s when three Italian immigrant brothers began selling a food product then considered foreign to most Connecticut residents: the grinder.
A little deli in a Waterbury neighborhood supermarket called Nardelli's started selling meat, cheese and veggies on full loaves of bread for 30 cents apiece. The locals were hooked.
Soon, lines of people from all walks of life would wind their way out the door, around the building and down the street for that great taste. And the patrons would keep coming for the next 90 years.
That’s right: Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppe is a nonagenarian - in its 90s - and is among a rare group of local businesses that can stake that claim, or anything close to it. Since the business was founded in 1922, our country has faced a World War, the Great Depression and 16 economic recessions. On a local level, the municipalities of Waterbury and Naugatuck, where the two original Nardelli’s Grinder Shoppes are located, have lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs whose holders kept local businesses alive for many years.
Through it all, Nardelli’s has not only survived, it has thrived. It has been named the top Connecticut grinder shop for 11 consecutive years by Connecticut Magazine. It has received national recognition by food publications and broadcasts. And it has branched from two family-owned businesses to seven locations, five of which are run by franchisees. Nardelli's Grinder Shoppes are now located in Oxford, Naugatuck, Waterbury, Southbury, Meriden and Danbury.
Still, the line that stands out most on the business' resume is that the company is now in its third-generation of management under the Nardelli name. The three owners are great grandchildren of those who originally built the business into a resounding local success story.
Only about 30 percent of family businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent are still viable into the third generation and only about 3 percent of all family businesses operate into the fourth generation or beyond, according to the Family Business Institute.
Nardelli's is managed by siblings Tony Nardelli, Marco Nardelli and Diane Nardelli Troiano. Tony and Diane have children and hope that a fourth generation of Nardellis will take over the family business one day.
"It's a tradition that we're very proud of, and we take tremendous pride in it," Diane said.
Because a 90th anniversary for a business, particularly a food business, is such a rare feat, Patch decided to sit down with the three Nardelli's siblings and take a look at how they have been so successful. What we have come up with is a series that will run in installments, the second and third of which will run tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday.
Tomorrow: A question and answer session with the Nardelli's owners about how they have been successful over the years
Wednesday: A look back at Nardelli's through the years in photos
As they say at Nardelli's, Grazie! It means "thank you" in Italian.