Article Contributed by
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist
Enserro’s Grocery and Conti’s Grocery were just two of the many Mom and Pop grocery stores that were family businesses in Brooklyn Square. Both were established by Italian immigrants, both had loyal customers, and both proprietors and their family members, who helped run the groceries, had the advantage of speaking to many of their Italian customers in their native tongue. It was good for business!
Mary and Joseph Enserro kept a grocery store at 136 Harrison Street at the corner of Harrison and Foote Avenue at the southeastern periphery of Brooklyn Square. It was across the street from the Crescent Tool Company, one of Jamestown’s leading manufacturers of fine hand tools. Because other large and small factories and businesses were located in the immediate vicinity, that corner was a high traffic area. For that reason, Enserro’s occupied an excellent location and consequently did a brisk trade not only from local neighbors but also the workers from the surrounding businesses. In addition to the grocery store, Mr. Enserro also ran a meat market in the same building.
Sebastian Conti, one of the city’s immigrants from Tortoricci, Sicily, established a grocery at 53 South Main Street, just south of the Broadhead Block. His store was right next door to another well known Brooklyn Square business—Tordoff & Sons Plumbing. Sebastian Conti ran what one might call a signature Italian grocery, putting his knowledge of his countrymen first and catering to their needs with specialities from Italy, which included, as I well recall, row upon row of tins of olive oil! When Mr. Conti passed away, sons Jimmy and Sebastian took over the business.
But the person I remember most was their sister Josephine who lived with her family in a house surrounded by a picket fence and fruit trees on the corner of Derby Street and Hanchett Place in full view of the Chadakoin River. Joesphine was a small woman who always had a smile on her face that made her demeanor cheerful and always made shopping at Conti’s pleasant. She worked in the family business for 22 years, noting that even people who were not from Jamestown shopped there. And one of those people was none other than the first lady of comedy—Jamestown’s own Lucille Ball!
Lucy never forgot her home town, and when she and Desi were in town for the premier of their movie “Forever Darling” in 1956, Lucy stopped at Conti’s to buy food and Italian items for a picnic she was giving at Celoron, where Lucy had lived with her grandparents. Judy Manders, Josephine’s daughter, recalled that her mother always remembered Lucy’s blue eyes and the crowd outside the store that had gathered to see one of the city’s native daughters. Indeed, a memorable event! Conti’s Grocery was in business from the mid-1930s to 1960, when Mary Carter Paints took over the location.
The hard work of immigrants, such as Joseph Enserro and Sebatian Conti, insured their success, and that work ethic was clear and evident in their immediate family members. Many older Jamestonians will remember these two Mom and Pop groceries, and like many businesses, time brought change to the commercial landscape as it did when urban renewal claimed Brooklyn Square and its adjacent neighborhoods.