Some of the names on the stalls in the produce arcade at the West Side Market -- Calabrese, DeCaro -- have been there for generations, while others -- most notably those of Middle Eastern descent -- reflect a more recent crop of fruit and vegetable vendors at the market. Since it opened in 1914, the L-shaped structure which borders the main market building on its north and east sides has been the place to find fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It has also been a place where hard working immigrant families (particularly Italians, early on) could start their own family business to pass on to succeeding generations.
Joe DeCaro's parents, for example, were Italian immigrants who met in Cleveland and opened a vegetable stand at the West Side Market in 1934. All of Joe's siblings worked at the family stand at one time or another, but Joe took over when his parents passed away, and he will soon be turning the business over to his daughter. Many of these original produce vendors have since left the market, but taking their place in many instances have been some of Cleveland's newest immigrants: Arab-Americans.
Running a produce stand at the market can be hard work, but the job was made easier after the city completed a series of renovations to the produce arcade in 2001. Most notably, the space was finally enclosed (it had no doors and very rudimentary window coverings previously) and provided with central heating, putting an end to the frigid winters that vendors and market goers once had to endure. New electrical and plumbing connections were also installed. As people continue to flock to the West Side Market, the roughly forty produce vendors there stand poised to carry on with a century-old Cleveland food tradition.