Greg Russo 2-19-10 1
New wine shop bearing Russo family name opens in diverse shopping center on Kalamazoo Avenue SE
By The Grand Rapids Press staff
October 06, 2009, 7:41AM
John Russo and his brother-in-law Farouk Karadsheh look at some of the exotic wines John will have at his new business, John Russo's Wine Warehouse & Deli. GRAND RAPIDS -- A new specialty wine and food shop, an offspring of sorts from G.B. Russo & Son International Grocery, aims to ring cash tills in the Towne & Country shopping center.
One of Giovanni Battista Russo's grandsons plans to open John Russo's Wine Warehouse & Deli this month at 4301 Kalamazoo Ave. SE.
The store might bring the beleaguered retail center some cachet from its namesake about three miles away on 29th Street SE, but it won't be part of the family business.
At least, not the same family.
"This will be my kids and me," John F. Russo said.
"We're going to do our own thing. I don't want to be a duplication. I'm going out of my way to be original.
"It's what I've done for the last 40 years. I have a personal following that I built up over there, and they're going to come to this store."
Russo, 60, said he has not been involved with the G.B. Russo store since a falling-out in January with his two youngest brothers, Dave and Phil Russo.
He said his new store is a partnership with his wife's brother, Farouk Karadsheh, who owns Towne & Country's anchor store, Mediterranean Island International Foods, and several of the center's spaces.
Russo, who comes from a Sicilian family that started G.B. Russo in 1905, and Karadsheh, a Jordanian, said they envision Towne & Country becoming an ethnic retailer center reflecting the area's changing demographics.
The center already offers a Vietnamese bakery, Armenian-owned grocery, Thai and Sicilian restaurants, and African hair braiding shop. An Arabic restaurant and hookah bar are among the new tenants being courted.
"We're trying to create this whole little marketplace here," Russo said. "We think this area has a lot of potential to really have a resurgence, and we want to be a part of it. In the next few years, we should have this place filled up and booming."
The center, just north of 44th Street SE, has about six vacancies, despite a drop in rents to as low as $5 per square foot, Karadsheh said.
The presence of the Russo name, with its longstanding track record in the local wine and specialty foods business, "will lift up this whole mall," he said.
Phil Russo, who owns G.B. Russo & Son with his brother, Dave, said "differing opinions on things" led to a parting with John Russo.
"He's our brother, and we wish him well," Phil Russo said. "I don't know if it will (impact our business) or not. I wish him success. I hope it's not at our expense."
John Russo and three of his children will work at the 4,000-square-foot Kalamazoo Avenue store.