Creativity and quality define Tony’s Meats & Market

It's a third generation specialty grocery

At 9 years old, Tony Rosacci began doing odd jobs in a small Italian corner market in his hometown of Detroit, earning $3 a week. Interrupted only by a call to the U.S. Army, Rosacci has been in the grocery business ever since.

In 1978, he rented an old 7-Eleven and launched his own brick and mortar butcher shop, Tony’s Meats, in what is now Centennial. As the market gained a following, he expanded conservatively, but creatively. The operation required all hands on deck, beginning with his wife, Nancy, who noticed that trimmings from the butcher block were going unused and cobbled together a small menu of deli items to avoid unnecessary waste. To complement the deli, the team at Tony’s began offering produce, as a matter of convenience, and next the selection grew to include freshly baked goods for customers to indulge.

“Our commitment to quality is unmatched, Papa doesn’t want any team member to sell something they wouldn’t be proud to serve their mother,” says Joey Orrino, Tony’s grandson and current vice president of Tony’s Meats & Markets and Tony Rosacci’s Fine Catering. He also oversees marketing, human resources and legal. Orrino earned his law degree at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, Minnesota years ago and returned to Denver in 2015 to join the family business. He remembers visiting “Papa’s store” in Centennial and carrying out groceries with his cousins for 25-cent tips.

That first location – one of four throughout metro Denver today – grew a loyal following. During the holidays, Orrino says an off-duty police officer manned the front door to avoid fire code violations, as customers formed lines that wrapped around the building. The holidays continue to present enormous opportunity for the local retailer. Last year Tony’s premade 900 meals for Thanksgiving feasts throughout Denver and the surrounding areas.

The growth of that faithful following led Tony and his family to open a second location at Broadway and Mineral Avenue in Littleton in the mid-‘90s, which ultimately moved downtown. Calling it a “destination market,” Orrino says customers pass an average of three other grocery stores and travel 10 miles to come to Tony’s.

Despite growth and success, Orrino says there have undoubtedly been obstacles his family has overcome: “It was very different back in the ‘90s,” he says of the 38-year-old company. “Tony’s was the place to go if you wanted a quality meal at home. Now the competition is real and its national, but we are always improving because of it!”

Today, the business has grown to 300 employees and goes three generations deep. Their smallness – in comparison to national brands – presents advantages, Orrino says.

Tony’s kids, Mick, Avie and Daniel, began helping in the market as teenagers and worked their way up. Today Daniel serves as CEO. While his primary duties include setting the vision and overseeing operations, he still rolls up his sleeves, cleaning, stocking and taking out the trash, just like his dad. Though Tony is now retired, he too can be found helping out, particularly around the Dry Creek store where he greets familiar customers with hugs and hellos.

When it came to the tough lessons, Tony passed those down as well. Orrino says at just 10 years old, he and his cousin complained to Tony about a manager who reprimanded them. “How could he talk that way to us?” Orrino asked. Tony gave an unexpected response: “As Rosaccis you set an example. You may have to work harder than everyone else, even if you’re getting paid less.” Orrino has seen this play out as his family members have worked harder during tough times, and taken pay cuts before any other team member’s job or salary was put at risk. “Family business isn’t about elevating the family name,” Orrino says. “It’s about responsibility.”

Avie, Orrino’s mother, is the director of the prepared foods sections at all four locations, representing Tony’s fastest growing category. Mick Rosacci is the corporate chef, overseeing recipes and quality.

“Our people are passionate about what they do,” Orrino says, attributing that very enthusiasm to his family’s professional success. He says the expertise of the team, from butchers to caterers, along with customer service, continue to differentiate Tony’s from others. Looking ahead, the team is planning to use its new company website, rolling out at the start of 2017, as an educational tool to share information and experiences. Tony’s also looks forward to continued partnerships with local product companies such as Tender Belly Bacon, Teakoe Tea and the next great local producer to walk into the market.

From generation to generation, Orrino says there’s a special pride in the business that is intrinsically tied to the family’s identity. Building on the wealth of wisdom and experience about how Tony’s operates, he says his generation is looking for new ways to tackle processes and policies, including “investing in people who aren’t family. We have to be comfortable relying on other’s expertise to develop and expand.” He adds that while it’s a challenge to “get away from the way things have always been,” that the family is open to pursuing what’s new whenever it’s the best.

(This sponsored content was paid for by Tony's Meats & Market.)

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