My Dad would never win ‘Father of the Year’. He was a gambler, loved the horses (or the ponies as he would say), and he wasn’t always around because he was originally a hard working truck driver, until my mom convinced him that they should purchase a small failing grocery store in Brentwood Village. They borrowed the money from my Uncle Mike because they could not qualify for a loan from a bank. The Village Mart grocery store was run down, had a full meat department, fresh produce section, 5 aisles of groceries, and 2 cash registers. My mom designed a beautiful store on a tight budget and my dad built it with his own hands.
My father never took us on vacations, he never took us fishing at the Santa Monica Pier, and he never attended any of my high school basketball or softball games. But that was because the store was opened 7 days a week from 8 am till 8 pm, and my parents worked there together every day.
Each day me and my brothers and sisters would work in the grocery store. My dad taught us how to work the register and count back change since there was no computer registers then. We needed to remember the prices of all the produce and weigh it on an old school scale, calculating in our heads. We all learned how important it was to “Face up the Groceries” on the shelves so all labels were easy to read. The milk refrigerator needed to be cleaned of any leaky cartons and we learned FIFO rule of accounting: First in first out by date.
Most importantly we learned how to treat each customer with respect and with a friendly smile. Whether those customers were gardeners who came in for a bag of chips and soda or the famous Getty family who would rave about our NY prime steaks. We needed to know everything about the products we sold so that our customers felt confident that they were in the right neighborhood store.
And when the day was done the store was locked and we were all loaded in the station wagon, inevitably someone would walk up and tug at the closed doors. All of us kids would say “dad don’t get out” but he didn’t listen, he would roll down the window and ask “did you need something?” The customer said “Milk” so although we made NO MONEY on milk, he would open the door and take care of the customer…. Treat everyone as if they were family.
That was the motto and it still is at Maria’s.
Yes my dad is not the father of the year, but he taught me what is important in business and life.. and every day at Maria’s I can hear my dad saying, “Thank God for the Village Mart…Marias Italian Kitchen and My family.”
His favorite time was having his 5 kids sitting around the table while our mom, Maria, prepared his favorite Macaroni (he never called it pasta) and meatballs.
So this Father’s day, let us pay tribute to all those hard working dads that may not be able to take the family on a vacation, or coach the soccer team, but show their love by working hard each day and providing food and shelter for their children.
Donald Alfano passed away just one month after my son Max in 2000. They are together forever.
Maddy, Owner of Maria’s Italian Kitchen & Maria’s Daughter