Because Everyone Has To Eat

Cavallo Built Grocery Chain After Arriving Here In 1955

Note: This article was originally published in the Waterbury Republican. View original article here (JPEG 1.3 MB)

Staff Writer

Santuceio and Maria Cavallo Stephen Valenti photo

Still In Practice
Santuccio and Maria Cavallo, heads of a family with several grocery stores scattered throughout the city, keep busy in business, although they are 82 and 77, respectively. They will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary Saturday.

WATERBURY — When Santuccio Cavallo came to the United States from Italy in 1955, he left behind his wife, Maria, and four children and their families. He had no idea what he face in a strange land. He was 50-years old, a farmer who had been a baker in the Italian Army; he had no other trade and he wasn't too sure how he was going to survive.

He lingered in New York for four months, finding people reluctant to hire him because of his age and finally shifted to Waterbury where he landed a job in a tire shop. His wife and four of his children and their families joined him in 1958, two other kids and their families sailed in 1966 and the final child and family a year later. Starting with $2,300, he gradually began acquiring grocery stores, although he knew little about the business. Because "everybody has got to eat," his family has built a mini-empire with each of the five sons having his own business.

Cavallo Imported Food is a familiar name on grocery stores scattered throughout the city; other holdings include an inn and factory in Watertown and even Gabe's Tire Shop where he obtained his first job. Saturday, the Cavallos, including 27 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, (with two more expected) will be gathering at the Ponte Club to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of the patriarch and matriarch. The 72 family members will be joined by others to make up about 160 people at the affair.

Mr. and Mrs. Cavallo were married in Colliano, Province of Salerno, Italy, April 28, 1928. "Every year there are three weddings in the families and three babies are born," one of the family remarked. Asked what has pleased him most over the years, Cavallo 82, replied that "since the day I got married every day is happier and the next day after is still happier." The successful "kids" are Angelo Cavallo, owner of a Cavallo's Market on East Main Street; Robert Cavallo, owner of Crestwood Plaza and a factory in Watertown; Lisa Strollo, who works at Waterbury Buckle Co.; Tony Cavallo, owner of Gabe's Tire Shop; Vito Cavaflo, owner of Cavallo's Town Plot; Michael Cavallo, owner of Crestbrook Restaurant, Watertown and Josephine Bosa, instructor of cosmotology at Kaynor Regional Vocational Technical School. He may smile now, looking about his successful family operation, recalling that "nobody wanted to give me a job, I was too old" in 1955, but it wasn't amusing to Cavallo then. The first grocery was in an old seafood store started with $2,300 and $1,000 was invested in food. "People always have to eat," he says simply.

About two years later a store opened on Orange Street. Then youngest son, Vito, and Mrs. Cavallo reopened another store on North Main Street and the father decided he wanted his own store, this one located at 60 Hillcrest Aye, Oakville. DeMichael's Market on North Main Street was acquired and Vito shifted there, Tony replaced Vito, who then moved to the Town Plot store on America Street. Oh, yes, Cavallo and son, Angelo, have a restaurant in Colliano, Italy, too! The family chuckles at the close family relations at the Cavallo home as sons and families started coming from Italy. A five-room house wound up with "11 people all at one time." The final influx came in 1967 when Lisa and her two daughters made it to Waterbury and lived with her parents until buying a home on Birch Street. Stores were shuffled among the family as Angelo and Robert were installed in separate East Main Street groceries.

As the sons settled into business, they bought their own homes and the family house became less crowded. When Mrs. Cavallo and her son took charge of their store, they opened up at 8 a.m. daily and managed to serve customers without speaking a word of English. "My mother makes bread" Josephine Bosa remarked mildly as the interview was drawing to a close. She didn't mean that her mother, 77, who is surrounded by commercial factory products daily, whips up a loaf for the family table occassionally. She means that regularly her mother's sideline is making a special bread like thin donut rounds, Taralli, and it is sold commercially by Gina More Bakery, Gina being another member of the family. She also crochets and the end products go to daughters and granddaughters.

The senior Covallos like to travel and have visited Australia, Argentina and Italy. Cavallo was born Oct. 28, 1905, one of 10 brothers and sisters. He served in the Italian Army for 10 years and was a bread maker for the Army during World War IL He learned to be a baker from his mother. Mrs. Cavallo was born Nov. 4, 1901 and there are 12 brothers and sisters in her family.