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Monday, September 22, 2014

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Fairfield 375: Mercurio's Market, a landmark family grocery

Published 12:20 pm, Wednesday, July 9, 2014

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  • "Pop" Mercurio and Dom Jr. hold the family's horses as they deliver fruits and vegetables to their customers via horse and wagon. The Mercurio's grocery business started in 1900. Courtesy: Fairfield Museum and History Center Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen
    "Pop" Mercurio and Dom Jr. hold the family's horses as they deliver fruits and vegetables to their customers via horse and wagon. The Mercurio's grocery business started in 1900. Courtesy: Fairfield Museum and History Center Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Fairfield, established in 1639, is one of Connecticut's oldest communities. From its settlement 375 years ago by English colonists on "four squares" of land that Native Americans called Uncoway to the vibrant town of 60,000 residents that it is today, Fairfield's history is a chronicle of compelling events and colorful characters.

The Fairfield Citizen will highlight vignettes from that rich history throughout this 375th anniversary year on a regular basis.

Mercurio's Market was a downtown institution in Fairfield for more than 100 years, where exceptional quality and attention to customer service won over generations of grocery buyers.

The business was founded in 1900 by Domenic Mercurio Sr., who started the enterprise by selling fruits and vegetables door-to-door from his horse and wagon.

"Mercurio's ¦ maintained itself on the basis of its reputation for quality food," historian Thomas Farnham said in his book, "Fairfield, the Biography of a Community." That reputation for good food -- as well as for personal service and home delivery -- made Mercurio's a successful market with many loyal customers for years. Eventually, Domenic Mercurio turned over the store's management to his sons, Jimmy and Domenic Jr., who continued offering the service that made their family grocery business popular.

After opening the original Mercurio's store near the site of the Fairfield Public Library, the market was moved in 1913 to 1508 Post Road in the heart of the downtown retail district. That building now stands empty after being occupied by a bank for several years after the market was closed in 2005.

Mercurio's also figures in the history of the founding of the Pepperidge Farm Inc. baking company. Pepperidge Farm founder Margaret Rudkin, trying to find a way to boost the family finances after the Wall Street crash, sold her first loaves of Pepperidge Farm bread to Mercurio's Market in 1937. The bread was so popular that Mercurio's placed numerous orders, helping to launch Rudkin's baking business.

When Mercurio's closed, it was one of the oldest continuously operated family businesses in Fairfield. Some say Mercurio's reputation for good food and good service lives on at The Pantry, a specialty market and catering service at 1580 Post Road. Pantry co-owner Thierry LeMeur was a buyer at Mercurio's Market for many years, and has hired other former Mercurio employees.