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Western Springs Fruit Store is an American Success Story

How hard work and determination paid off for a 16-year-old immigrant from Sicily.

In 1899, a 16-year-old boy named August Serio came to the United States from Palermo, Sicily. After working and saving his money, he returned to marry Anna Calderone. But, the Italian Army inducted him, even though he had become a U.S. citizen. Three years later, he was discharged, married Anna, and returned to the U.S. 

Initially selling fruit and vegetables door to door in the western suburbs (see first photo), August also started his two sons, Tony and Sam, in the business while they were still in grade school. By the time they were 16, they were working full-time. In 1927, the family opened a fruit store in Western Springs. And, in 1938, they moved the fruit store a block to be closer to the train tracks and other businesses in town.  See second photo.  

Just as today, the store was located at 925 Burlington Avenue, across the street from the train station. In those days, they had to get up at 2 a.m., hitch up a horse and wagon, and travel to the Chicago produce markets where they would purchase the best fruit and vegetables available. And, when one of the boys went into the military service, his sister, Sally, worked in the store to help out. See third photo. 

While much of the store’s success was due to the variety and freshness of the fruit and vegetables, customer service was also a key factor.  Long before credit cards had been invented, the store offered credit accounts.  to its regular customers.  Note this entire bill from November 1931 was just 83 cents! See fourth photo

Of course, the dollar bought a lot more in the 1930’s. Just look at this ad from 1934 … three pounds of Delicious apples for just 20 cents!  See fifth photo.

In 1977, the family donated a hanging scale from their shop to the Western Springs Historical Society. It is displayed in the Water Tower Museum, alongside other artifacts from that time period.

In April of 1978, Sam Serio passed away. While his brother, Tony, continued to run the store for half a year, he decided to sell the business to Al Enzbigilis and Bob Yurchak. However, Tony continued to help out in the store a few hours each week for at least ten more years.  See sixth photo.

Today, the store continues to serve the village much the way it has for the past 85 years. And, while the store now carries gourmet items, fruit salads, vegetable platters, and fruit baskets, there’s still a lot that hasn’t changed. Stop by and sample some real Western Springs history… one of, if not the, oldest continually operating businesses in the village.  See seventh photo.

Sharon Carrara January 09, 2013 at 11:03 PM
All the produce is wonderful but the people that work there are the best! They are the nicest group of men I have ever met...always there with a smile and helping hand. Love "The Fruit Store."
Erik Bloecks January 10, 2013 at 02:44 AM
Another gem from Mr. Devona.
Robert McNeily January 10, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Sam and Tony were friends, mentors and a second set of parents while I was growing up in Western Springs...two men I think about often when I have the opportunity to come visit. Two Christmas's ago, I stopped at the new store early before dawn and met the new operators while mentioning just how much they had managed to re-create the aura of Tony and Sam's from my 60's memories. Thanks for the story! Bob McNeily, Winchester, Virginia.
Terese January 10, 2013 at 09:46 PM
I love The Fruit Store, especially their smoothies! Everyone there is so nice, and their produce can't be beat.
Jean Serio-LaRocco December 08, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Thank Mr Devona! Very nice tribute to my grandfather, great grandfather and Uncle Sam. The Village of Western Springs and the customer's of their store meant a lot to them.

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