Before you even enter the DeCicco & Sons supermarket in Millwood, you’ll notice that things are done differently at this grocery store. The shopping carts are lined up orderly, each one gleaming with wheels that glide smoothly along the immaculate floors. The outside display features seasonal mums attractively lined up. As soon as you step inside, you can see fresh-cut flower bouquets and a beautiful bounty of the freshest produce with many products purchased in partnerships with local farms. It’s an attention to detail and an emphasis on quality first that puts this beloved supermarket at the heart of the community.
It all began with John DeCicco Sr. who started his career working in the food industry as a 12-year-old immigrant from Calabria, Italy. As a part-time employee in a fruit store on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, John Sr. honed an appreciation for quality products and customer service. When the opportunity came up to purchase a bankrupt supermarket in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx in 1972, he jumped at that prospect and began purchasing other supermarkets with family members. Today there are currently seven DeCicco & Sons store in Westchester and his sons John Jr. and Chris play an integral role in the management and operations of all locations.
A Commitment to Health
The family cares deeply not only about the quality of the products available but also about improving their customer’s health. They have revamped all of their prepared items and are eliminating vegetable oil and corn oil replacing it with olive oil. They use sea salt instead of regular salt without compromising on taste and that’s just the beginning. All of their meats (chicken, pork and beef) in their prepared items are antibiotic and hormone-free and purchased from local farms. They try to source wild fish and fresh fish (not frozen or farmed). They also have relationships with local farms to secure in-season produce.
Customer Service is King
The DeCicco family places a premium on customer service, which is evident to any shopper that enters the store. The cashiers are friendly and courteous and the staff goes out of their way to help customers looking for products. “We only take 15-20% of employees that apply for jobs and we have an intensive training process where we emphasize customer service. We are on top of customer service every day. It’s not something you can let go,” explained John Jr. The family is also dedicated to improving employee satisfaction and regularly conducts surveys and meetings to ensure that any staff concerns are addressed.
Giving Back to the Community
“We live in these communities ourselves so we always want to do the right thing,” explains John DeCicco Jr. And indeed they do by supporting many philanthropic causes over the years. The stores have a community school rebate program, which donates 1% of pre-taxed sales to local PTAs and allows them to allocate funds appropriately. Customers at the Millwood location can stop by customer service and link their reward card to the Chappaqua PTA. The DeCicco family also supported a breast cancer walk at Manhattanville last month. In addition, they donate 250 Thanksgiving meals to local families in need annually.
Creating a “Green “Supermarket
After receiving the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Platinum Green Chill Certification for their Larchmont location, they knew they wanted to install a similar HSF-free refrigeration system in the Millwood store, which would use less electricity and less reliance on fossil fuels than traditional supermarket refrigeration systems. But first they needed a complete gut renovation of the former A & P store. Construction began on August 20th last year and the store opened on December 30, 2016. “The town was very supportive and it was the quickest we had ever done a store. The supermarket is “green” as can be” and also received the EPA’s highest certification: the Platinum Level Green Chill Certification. “The fact that we are doing this as an independent grocery store is remarkable- Whole Foods only has one in the whole state!” noted John DeCicco Jr.
Heaven for Beer Lovers
“Everyone in the Hudson Valley knows if you want good beer, you go to DeCiccos,” exclaims Chris. The family got into craft beers early in the 1990s before it was a trend.
“The industry has grown as we have grown. We have the biggest selection,” Chris continues. The family imports a lot of beer from Europe and they have great relationships with brewers. In fact, they are so well-known and knowledgeable about the beer industry that Chris was recently inducted as an honorary knight in Belgium in a 13th century tradition called the Knighthood of the Brewers’ Mash Staff that took place at the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels. The hour- long ceremony includes two priests and a bishop consecrating a cask of beer. The DeCicco family was all in attendance to watch this great honor.
Distinct Features & Thanksgiving Offerings
Although there are several DeCicco & Sons supermarkets throughout Westchester each supermarket has distinct features and the Millwood location features a beer and wine tasting bar and dining area that is a popular spot for lunch. The fresh sushi bar is a hit with customers. In addition the store offers full-service catering which is helpful for the upcoming holiday season.
With the holiday season arriving shortly, the Inside Press had to inquire about what Thanksgiving is like at the DeCicco family’s celebration. “Thanksgiving in our home features a 25-30 pound turkey, stuffed artichokes, Italian antipasto, and an insane amount of pies and desserts. We make a traditional American Thanksgiving with an Italian flair,” said John DeCicco Jr. Envision all the traditional Thanksgiving items combined with scrumptious Italian delicacies such as roasted peppers with mozzarella, stuffed artichokes and antipasti. And to top it off a dessert table to envy with pies and cakes galore. Customers can replicate a DeCicco Thanksgiving feast simply by calling their catering department and placing an order. For additional information, please visit: www.deciccoandsons.com.
Stacey Pfeffer is the editor of Inside Chappaqua and Inside Armonk Magazines.