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Struggling Giancola's abruptly shuts down

Shocked customers and employees find a note on the door of the popular market after the owner breaks his lease.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002


An independent grocery known for its quality meat and huge wine selection has closed after a long history in South Tampa.

Giancola's Market on S MacDill Avenue shut down as of May 16, shocking customers, employees and business owners.

"There was no warning," said Shannon Henderson, manager of Palma Ceia Village, which leased the space to the market. "I think everyone was a little surprised."

Like many people, Henderson learned of the closing from a note posted on the front door. Giancola's owner, Michael McKenzie, did not notify the office ahead of time and left most of the merchandise in the store.

Henderson said he broke his lease and will not be back. She would not confirm if he owed the shopping center rent money, but said creditors have been calling. She did not know what will replace the market.

McKenzie could not be reached for comment.

He bought the market from Ed Giancola in January 2001.

Giancola said he didn't know why the store closed. The business was doing well when he left.

"It's a shame. It was kind of a thing in South Tampa," he said. "We had a great wine selection in there."

Giancola sold the grocery after getting tired of the commute to his East Lake home. Later, he opened Ed's Fine Wines in Safety Harbor.

Giancola ran the market from 1990 to 2001. He bought it from Simon Schwartz, who founded the market at another location on MacDill in 1950 and moved to the current location in mid-1980s.

The market changed names three times. It opened as the Simon Schwartz Supermarket, then became Simon's Market in 1992. A few years later, Giancola named it Giancola's Market after Schwartz sued over the use of his name.

Schwartz's son, Lee, said Tuesday the store hasn't been the same since his family left. Giancola and his managers changed old deli recipes and the grade of beef.

"The minute they bought it, they changed the merchandising philosophy," he said. "They pretty much discarded everything we did."

Schwartz said the market was a favorite among South Tampa shoppers looking for top-notched meats and produce. Many did the majority of their shopping there. Others came in for specialty items they couldn't find elsewhere.

Some of the employees had worked at the store for several years. One person started in 1960. A few called Schwartz after hearing the news.

"I feel bad for the employees," Schwartz said. "It's not their fault. They weren't given the tools."

Customers said competition from Publix, Albertson's and other grocery stores may have taken its toll on Giancola's. Many hated to see it go.

"It was very quick and convenient," said Sally Limberg, a 15-year customer. "It was nice to have a friendly neighborhood market as opposed to having to run into Publix and wait."

The shopping center hopes to land another grocery but has no solid prospects.

Any new market may face tough competition. Schwartz is considering opening an upscale grocery in Old Hyde Park Village, though not in the former Jacobson's store. Schwartz said it lacks suitable parking.

- Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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