If customers of his Tarentum produce store were a little short, Paul Perriello would tell them to catch him later.
If kids came in hungry, he’d give them hoagies and milk and send them on their way.
“That’s what a small businessman does: He takes care of the town,” Perriello said. “The big stores aren’t going to do that.”
What the big stores will do, Perriello said, is put small shops like his out of business.
Perriello, 64, of New Kensington plans to shut down the retail part of his West Seventh Avenue store, Perriello Produce, by the end of January.
He plans to continue his wholesale business, selling to restaurants, schools and bars, as well as fruit baskets and hoagie sales.
Perriello said he has been clearing his shelves for a few months now and is nearly wiped out.
Perriello has run his store since he bought it around 1991. The store sold deli meat, fresh produce, snacks and household items.
It was founded as Sam’s Fruit Market by Italian immigrant Sam Capoccioni and his wife, Carmella. They ran it from the mid-to-late 1940s until 1975, when their son, Victor Capoccioni, took over and renamed it Samson Produce.
Perriello said competition from the nearby Family Dollar, which opened in November 2018, is driving him out of the retail business.
“What happened was the day they opened up, the very next day my business was cut in half,” he said.
Family Dollar officials could not be reached for comment.
“This store was the one that people used to come to. People came every day to buy stuff,” he said. “Then they put that store down there. Now people walk right past and don’t bother coming in.”
Perriello’s shop is in Tarentum’s 3rd Ward. Councilman Brian Snyder, one of two council members representing the ward, said it is a shame Perriello is closing the store.
“It’s a shame to see him go,” he said. “It really is. That just means one less business down on Seventh Avenue, and that’s not good for anybody.”
Council President Scott Dadowski called Perriello’s decision to close “unfortunate.”
“From a personal standpoint and a council standpoint, you never want to see any business close in the borough. You never want to see a family business close,” he said. “It hurts the borough, for sure.”
The Family Dollar project went through before Dadowski and Snyder were on borough council.
“Family Dollar serves another big chunk of our community,” Snyder said. “People are able to get things there they can’t get at Perriello’s. People need stores like that. They sell a bit of everything. It’s too bad he wasn’t able to compete with them.”
Perriello predicted in May 2017 he would not be able to compete with Family Dollar’s prices. He was thinking of selling his store then.
Perriello carried products Family Dollar doesn’t, but when it came to things they both sold, like pop or potato chips, he said he couldn’t buy it for what Family Dollar sold it for.
“That’s what Tarentum wanted: They wanted a Family Dollar in town,” he said. “I understand. Business is business. I had a good run.”
As he nears retirement age, Perriello said he’s looking for a way out anyway.
“It’s time to semi-retire,” he said. “I’m too old to re-invent myself. If I was 40, it would be another story.”