Specialist in imported food looks back on long careerBy Jack Stzinger, News Staff Writer
His clientele would arrive from as far as Meadville to the north and Parkersburg, W. Va., to the south, because you won't find Greek feta or Italian peccorino roman cheeses just anywhere. Or Canadian bacala (dried codfish), or olives imported from Greece and Morocco.
At the Star Meat Market, 134 E. Long Avenue., all these delights and more were available. Olive oil from Spain, Greece and Italy. Greek halvah candy, and Italian torone. Owner Gust Talaganis imported such specialties for over 50 years, from 1922 until just a few months ago when he closed the store and retired at the age of 78.
Today Gust, who has 13 grandchildren, lives quietly at home with his daughter, Elizabeth, and son-in-law, George. He goes for walks, helps his daughter around the house, and plays with his three-year-old collie-afghan, Awesome, who lives up to his name.
Gust also finds time to read a Greek-American newspaper, The National Herald, now that he has had a cataract operation which greatly improved his eyesight.
Of his long career, Gust says simply, I wanted to be a businessman,
Native to a small village near Tripoli, Greece, Gust brought his dream to America in 1911, when he was only 16. His imagination was fired by stories he heard about this country, a place where a man could find money in the streets,
He came first to Ashtabula, Ohio, where his brother James, who had arrived in 1908, was part-owner of a confectionery. Where is the money? Gust says he asked his brother as they walked the streets of Astabula together. I don't see any money.
Gust's first job in America was that of a shoe-shine boy in Astabula, He worked in this manner for about three years, and in 1914 he used his savings to open a restaurant. To find a name for the establishment Gust said he ran an advertisement in a local paper offering a $10 gold piece to whoever gave him the best idea. A schoolteacher won, he said, with the name Utopia a word which has Greek origins.
Gust said the restaurant did a good business, especially at dinner time. Sometimes, he said, we wouldn't have enough food for all the people. We had to close the restaurant.
When he was called by the draft in 1916, Gust sold the place. However, the First World War ended before he was ever inducted and the draft was canceled.
In 1918 Gust moved to Farrell, where he and two other men started a grocery store called the Colonial Market. Gust met his future bride, the former Mary Deep, as a customer at the store. They were married Jan. 31, 1922, three months after Mary's 14th birthday. Gust decided to open a grocery store in New Castle and his brother joined him in the venture.
Gust said he doesn't remember how or when the name Star Market came from, but that is what his store has always been called. During the grand opening celebration, Gust said he gave away a free measuring cup with every purchase. In those days pork chops were sold at the Market for 20 cents a pound, round steak for 25 cents a pound and baloney for 5 cents a pound.
The South Side was booming in those days, Gust said. "People were all over the streets, just like flies, he said.
Business was good, but Gust said he once had a run-in with the manager of a local A&P store who objected to Gust calling his coffee by the name Six o'clock, The brand name for A&P coffee was Eight o'clock, and the man told Gust he couldn't use the o'clock' phrase in advertising his coffee. Gust says he told the man he wouldn't change the name, and he also told his competitor that someday he would come back to the market looking for a job with the Talaganis'. Sure enough, one day the man was fired at the A&P, and he did return to ask for work. Gust refused.
Gust and Mary's first child and their only son, George, was born in November, 1922, and Mary's mother became a grandmother at age 30.
The family lived at 1116 Sciota Street from 1921 on. Mary stayed home to raise the children, which eventually numbered six. While they were growing up, Gust's son and five daughters helped him in the store. Although it was a family-run store, outsiders were employed as butchers and clerks.
It was fun, really, Elizabeth said. We all showed compassion for one another.
The family were early members of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 215 E. Reynolds St., founded about 1930.
In 1934, Gust came out with his own trading stamps, becoming the first New Castle merchant to employ such stamps. Gust also said he was the first man to advertise a grocery story in the pages of the New Castle News.
People would come to the market for Gust's fine meats and other domestic and imported foods, but they also would often get free medicinal advice. Gust said he would recommend sage tea for people with diabetes, and lupini beans for customers with hemorrhoid problems.
People would come in and tell him about their ailments, Elizabeth recalls. And they listened to him. They'd come back later and say he helped them.
Gust sold cigarettes at the market, but he didn't believe in smoking. You eat when you're hungry, you drink when you're thirsty, he said, Smoking, what is it?
Here's your poison, he said to customers to whom he sold cigarettes.
Elizabeth said the main reason her father has lived so long in good health is that he constantly watches his diet. If he eats something and it doesn't agree with him, he just won't touch it again, she said.
Gust admits he likes to take a sip of whiskey after rising in the morning and another before bed at night. Occasionally he will have a drink before dinner. Whiskey is good for you, he said. It stimulates your heart.