Filed Under Food

WSM Produce Arcade

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.

Video

A Coke Stove To Keep Warm Joe DeCaro, owner of DeCaro Produce, recalls a time when the West Side Market's produce arcade was left open to the elements. Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities

Audio

"It Gets Into Your System" Joe DeCaro, owner of DeCaro Produce, talks about the history of his family's business. Source: Courtesy of Mark Pecot
Winter at the Arcade Tony Pinzone, current meat vendor, describes the Arcade during the wintertime. Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Images

Produce Vendors, 1962 The last names of these West Side Market produce vendors indicate their ethnic background: Palmisano, Tramer, Gentile, Calabrese, Schilla, Marellno, Bondi, Winneman, Guinta, Rini, Fritchie, and Cianciolo. Indeed, many vendors were immigrants who viewed opening a market stand as the best opportunity for creating a lasting family business in Cleveland. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Sidewalk Market, 1946 In the past, vendors often left the sweltering produce arcade during the summer months and set up shop on the sidewalks in front of the West Side Market. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Horseradish, 1947 Myrtle Chaffill sells horseradish and ground coconut at the West Side Market in 1947. While Chaffill appears to be set up outside, temperatures were frigid even within the produce arcade during the winter, forcing vendors and customers to bundle up. The arcade was not fully enclosed until 2001, at which point central heating was also added. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Beets for Sale, 1947 West Side Market vendor Rose Thomas displays the beets she is selling. Rose (nee Rohanna Maroon) came to Cleveland as a widow from Lebanon at age 20 and married Sarkis Thomas. The couple went on to open a produce stand at the market. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Calabrese Produce, 1967 Sam Calabrese opened his produce stall at the West Side Market in 1919, shortly after arriving in Cleveland from Italy. Today, Calabrese Produce is still family owned and located at the market. Here, Jim Calabrese is shown helping a customer in 1967. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Joe DeCaro Joe DeCaro is shown working at his stand in the West Side Market. DeCaro's parents, Italian immigrants, started DeCaro produce at the market in 1934. It is still open today, and Joe will soon pass on the family business to his daughter. Image courtesy of Joe DeCaro
Vincent DeGrandis, 1970 Vincent DeGrandis, a produce vendor at the West Side Market, talks to a Cleveland Press newspaper reporter while holding a sign thanking the paper for covering his campaign to have the produce arcade at the market enclosed. The arcade, however, remained open to the elements until 2001, when the city finally enclosed the space, adding doors, new windows, and central heating. Before this occurred, produce vendors complained that cold temperatures kept customers away during the winter months. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University Library Special Collections

Location

1979 W 25th St, Cleveland, OH 44113

Metadata

“WSM Produce Arcade,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 27, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/302.