The family grocery store
There is a cheerful jangle and clink of bells as the door opens to the DeMary’s world, where canned goods are to your right, dairy products and produce to your left, and the meat counter is at the rear.
If you’re the average customer, the meat counter is where you’re headed. But you won’t cross the 40 feet to the back of the store before you hear about Joe Oliverio’s hospital stay or receive a hearty “How ya doin’” from at least one of the DeMary clan.
You’ve probably come for the homemade sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut to any length you desire. Mary Jane DeMary will even tell you the best way to cook it. Or maybe you’ve come for breakfast sausage, or a pork roast that measures seven and a half inches long because that’s the size of your roasting pan. If you don’t know the exact measurements, Fred DeMary can size up your hand-span estimate and cut the meat to size.
A taxidermy menagerie including four deer, a couple of squirrels, a rainbow trout and a bobcat monitor the inventory. Pictures scattered through the store of elder DeMarys and a coal tipple evidence the history of the place.
Established in Monongah in 1918 by Julio “Pete” Demaria, DeMary’s Market moved to Rivesville in 1938 and has been a family operation ever since.
Demaria came from Naples, Italy, to work in a coal mine in Monongah for $1.25 per day in 1912. After World War I, he was laid off with most of the other single men and got a job delivering groceries. Shortly thereafter he went into business for himself and ran the store with his wife Nancy. When Demaria became a U.S. citizen in 1925, they changed their name to DeMary.
Pete’s four sons, John, Joe, Fred and Leo, inherited the family business and have passed it down to their children. On any given day you can see one or all four of them in the store, though all but Fred retired in 1985. Fred’s son Richard runs the store now.
In 1938, Pete DeMary located the store on what had been a slate dump in Rivesville. When the temperatures were cool, the heat from the dump would make the ground steam around the market. Locals said, “That crazy dago will either burn up or go broke in six months.” Sixty-five years later, customers who come to DeMary’s Market will tell you they’ve been shopping there all their lives.
It has become a place where a community congregates, hears the latest, and where the hospitality is as important to the customers as the food.