Green grocer takes on new meaning for DeCicco & Sons

DeCicco & Sons is one of the last remaining family-owned grocery stores, yet the business is anything but old fashioned. Its brand new Larchmont store is equipped with some of the most cutting-edge green technology, John DeCicco Jr. said.

He has been involved in the family business since childhood. His father, John DeCicco, opened the first store in the Bronx with brother, Joe DeCicco, in 1973. Much has changed since then. The business now has six locations in Ardsley, Armonk, Brewster, Harrison, Larchmont and Pelham. (There are also six stores owned by another branch of the family under the name DeCicco Family Markets.) Some of the more than 600 employees include John’s sons, John Jr. and Chris, John Jr.’s wife, Luisa, and Joe’s son, Joe Jr.

In mid-December, just days before the Larchmont store’s grand opening, John and John Jr. gave WAG a tour. The new space is warehouse-sized but with an intimate feel due to the reclaimed barn wood and brick, neatly organized aisles and a mezzanine — complete with seating and a bar — overlooking the store.

John Jr. said the store will use solar panels on the roof to generate 75 percent of its electricity during peak sunlight, reclaimed heat from the refrigeration system to reduce use of natural gas, appliances with low-water flow, fans to reduce heating, LED lighting and refrigeration using carbon dioxide to help reduce global warming. The kitchen’s computer-controlled ovens remember recipes that are cooked every day and can automatically adjust.

When asked who came up with the ideas for implementing the technology, John nodded to his son, who shyly took the credit, then showed us the basement, a control center with the high-tech infrastructure, including compressors, a backup generator and computerized temperature control. This allows the family to monitor what works and bring it to the existing stores.

The store also has a refrigeration wall (made with recycled glass) with about 3,000 different beers. The new locale also serves chopped salads, prepared sandwiches, sushi and the premium, quality items DeCicco is known for, John said.

The family adds stores based on customer needs, and there was a need in Larchmont for a DeCicco’s.

“We try to give customers what they want,” John said.

Luisa DeCicco also did market research to make sure the location would work, he said. John Jr., who said he is passionate about the construction side of the business, had his eye on the property, which was formerly a Guitar Center, for a couple of years. He said that Somers could be the next locale for a store.

Customer service has been the key to success, John said. This is what sets the business apart from other grocery store chains and has allowed it to grow.

Being ahead of the curve and offering a different experience has also helped, Chris said: “We don’t want it to be a chore to go shopping.”

Joe added that being able to evolve is what has kept them in business. Other companies like A&P failed to do that, he said.

John Jr. admitted that working with family has its ups and downs. He laughed as he recalled Joe and Chris teasing him when his technical expertise earned him a magazine cover story.

Still, Joe Jr. said, “We’re lucky we all get along.”

For more, visit deciccoandsons.com.

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