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 A historical photo shows Village Market as it was in 1962.

A historical photo shows Village Market as it was in 1962.

Photo provided by Al Guastello II


St. Clair Shores businessman celebrates 100th birthday

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 16, 2019

 Peter Guastello celebrated his 100th birthday at a party Dec. 8. He opened Guastello’s Village Market, which is now run by his son, Al Guastello, left, and his grandson, Al Guastello II, right.

Peter Guastello celebrated his 100th birthday at a party Dec. 8. He opened Guastello’s Village Market, which is now run by his son, Al Guastello, left, and his grandson, Al Guastello II, right.

Photo provided by Al Guastello II

ST. CLAIR SHORES — In 1949, Peter Guastello had a produce market on the northeast corner of Harper Avenue and Martin Road.

The plan was to run the produce stand during the mild months in Michigan and live in Florida during the winter, but a friend talked him into opening up a full-scale grocery store, which meant he had to stay open year-round.

“He’s had an amazing life,” said Al Guastello, as his father celebrated his 100th birthday Dec. 8.

The son of Sicilian immigrants, Peter Guastello first worked for Ford Motor Co. in the upholstery plant at the Rouge factory and then transitioned to making aircraft parts at Willow Run during World War II. He even met Henry Ford, but decided after seven years that factory life wasn’t for him.

He bought the property in St. Clair Shores in 1949 and began selling produce on the corner to earn enough money to construct a building.

“The community was just developing. Back then, it was the village of St. Clair Shores. That’s where he got the name,” Al Guastello said.

He recalled that when he was a child in the 1960s, Guastello’s Village Market, 28510 Harper Ave., became a full-scale grocery store that faced competition from the A&P across Harper Avenue and a Kroger store at 11 Mile Road.

“He had a lot of competition, but he was known for the perishables here,” Al Guastello said.

Over the years, Peter Guastello branched into the restaurant business — owning four eateries throughout the 1960s and ’70s — and then into the car dealership business when he partially retired to Florida. He served as vice chairman of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners in the early 1960s and personally welcomed John F. Kennedy during his presidential campaign, driving him to a speech he made on Gratiot Avenue.

Al Guastello took over the Village Market business in 1975, and the family-owned business is now in its third generation with the addition of Al’s son, Al Guastello II.

Al Guastello II said that after he graduated from Grosse Pointe South High School in 2000, he attended school in Arizona, where he earned his degree in finance and a law degree from Arizona State University. He practiced law and opened a small cosmetics distribution company, but when he and his wife had two children, they decided the time might be right to move back home to Michigan.

He said that he never planned to join the family business; it just slowly evolved as he lunched with his dad and grandfather and began making suggestions for the store based upon what he had learned as a distributor and differences he had seen in West Coast grocery stores.

“Slowly, I’m learning the entire business,” he said. “My grandpa gets such a kick out of it. Every time I see him, it’s ‘Village Market forever!’”

Al Guastello II said he has enjoyed bringing new items to the market and expanding its collection of locally sourced items, and he’s very happy to have pleased his grandfather by carrying on the family tradition.

“We’ve watched stores open and close. This store is known for being incredibly clean. The meat department is second to none,” he said.

But it’s really the employees who make the business, like a long-time manager who has been at the store for 40 years, a produce manager who has been with Guastello’s Village Market for 20 years, and other employees who have celebrated a decade or more with the store.

Peter Guastello returned to Michigan in his 80s and began running the bakery at Village Market, greeting his old customers, his son said. The centenarian still lives in St. Clair Shores today.

“Everybody loved him,” he said. “He’ll (still) come in occasionally. My dad’s just thrilled that his legacy looks like it’s going to continue on here.”

Village Market will celebrate 70 years in business in February 2020.

Al Guastello said he’s happy that his father is still able to see the fruits of his labor.

“I don’t think there’s anybody (else) left from the early days of small business in St. Clair Shores,” he said.