Ask Angie Petrucci what it takes to be successful in business for 37 years, and she’ll tell you just one thing: “I had great customers who were very good to me. I've been very blessed.”
What she won’t tell you is why she had loyal customers. We discovered the answers are simple: she kept her prices reasonable; she went out of her way to please them; and she worked extremely hard – seven days a week, nearly every week of the year, until she was 84 and her family made her stay home on weekends.
Angie has had a great run as owner of International Food at 1565 South Main St. in Waterbury, a business she’s owned since 1975 after running another store, Imperio's, in downtown Waterbury. As businesses have come and gone from the Greater Waterbury area – including many factories that mom and pops like hers relied on – Angie hung in there with an uncanny work ethic.
Now, at 87, she is leaving on her own terms. She has decided she wants to live her remaining years enjoying her family, with whom she is living in Naugatuck.
Of course, though, she is having a difficult time leaving her family of customers and handing over the keys to a business that she ran with her husband, Peter, until his death in 1984. From then on, Angie did all she could to make sure the store continued to run well.
“Her house was where she slept, but this store was her home,” said her granddaughter, Jessica Swan, of Naugatuck. “It was unbelievable how dedicated she was.”
When a customer couldn’t remember what ingredients were needed for a particular dish, Angie would go to the library after work and spend hours researching the right mix.
Angie is fluent in English and Italian, and learned enough of multiple languages to communicate in German, Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Albanian and Turkish.
She was able to help her customers, who emmigrated from all over the world, find deals on items such as spcies, imported cheeses, Cod fish, feta cheese, Greek Fillo dough, octopus, Turkish coffee and shrimp from Portugal. She also specialized in food baskets for special occasions and ingredients for wine and beer, along with beer making kits, wine corks and other beer and wine supplies.
And when you look behind her counter, where she holds court to this day, you will see hundreds of religious figurines that people buy for various reasons that Angie knows well.
“St. Jude is for the impossible,” she explains. “And St. Joseph is for selling a home. People bury the statues upside down, facing the house and say prayers. …I’ve sold a ton of them over the years.”
And when the distributor she bought the statues from abruptly went out of business a few years ago, Angie searched for a replacement dealer all over the world. After a couple weeks of research, she found a company in southern California that had exactly what she was seeking.
True to form, it was another way in which Angie went above and beyond to please her beloved customers.
International Food is open from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday this week before Angie closes her doors for good. The family is looking for a buyer. Anyone interested should stop by the business or call (203) 574-5356.