In the early 1890’s, Grandpa Mike Mercurio migrated from Sicily, Italy to Ohio when he was only eight years old and lived with family members in Coshocton, OH. He eventually relocated to Columbus and started selling produce door to door from a horse and wagon. Like many immigrants, Grandpa worked hard, had a family of five boys and a girl and made the most of what his new country offered. Saving pennies and working long hours enabled him to start Capitol Fruit Company in the early 1930’s with his sons Marco, Joe Sr. and John.
In the early 1950’s, Joe Sr. broke away from his father’s business to start his own produce company: Mercurio Brothers Produce Company. Based on Lazelle St. in downtown Columbus – where other produce companies were also based. That was the original produce terminal/market in Columbus!
Change was on the horizon, however. As Columbus redeveloped that area, Joe Sr. moved his business to Neilston and Mt. Vernon to a larger building while his brothers moved on to other interests.
When Joe Jr. got out of the army, after a stint in Viet Nam, he joined his father in the family business at age 21. Together they grew the business, moved to another bigger and better location with banana ripening rooms, tomato ripening rooms and a tomato repacking line. They were a full service produce distributor with customers like the State of Ohio, retail and food service.
Joe Sr.’s wife, Mildred was involved in the business as head bookkeeper as well as Joe Jr.’s sister. At one point Joe Jr’s daughter also worked in the business – giving them the honor of 3 generations all in one place!
In the early 1900’s in Columbus, there was an open-air market called Central Market. It was located in downtown Columbus, where the Greyhound bus station is now. Grandma Mercurio had a stall (which went up on Thursday and came down on Saturday night) where she sold produce. When Joe Sr. was born, Grandma would take him to work as a baby in a basket and keep him under the table as she sold produce.
Mercurio Brothers Produce delivery truck. Joe Sr. (far right) with family members circa 1950.
Grandpa Mercurio in front of his first brick and mortar building. Capitol Fruit Company circa 1930.