Community support keeps Allen Park business strong after 20 years – The News Herald
Frank Liberati could be a poster child for living the American Dream.
When he and his wife, Nina, opened their first delicatessen and bakery in March 2002, there was no guarantee it would succeed.
While this is true of virtually any business, Frank Liberati had little to no experience in meats and baked goods. He will be the first to admit that he had a lot to learn.
For most of his adult life up to that point, Liberati sold tractor-trailers. He worked in the corporate world for 15 years, some of that time spent with the Fruehauf Trailer Corporation.
Largely due to the changes taking place in the industry at that time, he found himself jobless and looking for a fresh start.
“I wanted to get out of the nightmare of working for other people,” Liberati said.
His father, who immigrated to the United States from Italy, ran the Liberati restaurant in Dearborn for about 50 years, and Frank Liberati also worked there in his youth. Working in the restaurant taught him how to make pizza, bread in small quantities and even to prepare a few dishes. However, he felt his strengths lay in sales and promotions.
Liberati jokes that he’s lived in Allen Park “forever” so he knows the community well. He thought a deli and bakery would be welcomed not just in Allen Park, but also in the wider Downriver community. Time proved him right, but things got off to a bad start in the weeks and months before the store opened.
He had his eye on a building that was for sale at 7607 Allen Road, but it was in bad shape.
According to Liberati, the building served as a dry cleaning business for at least 30 years. This was followed by a carpet store and then a video store. Liberati said that after the video store closed, the “carpet guy” went back there for a while, but things didn’t work out. So in 2001 the property was for sale and Liberati saw a diamond in the rough.
At the age of 38, he purchased the former dry cleaning/carpet/video store, closing the deal on October 5, 2001. This was less than a month after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, and not a good time to start a new mom-and-pop operation like Liberati anticipated.
He recalls relatives and close friends warning him not to be too disappointed if the business did not go as he expected.
But Liberati said he took a “to hell with the torpedoes” approach and went full steam ahead. He rolled up his sleeves to face the many weeks of work ahead before he could open his new business.
“It needed a lot of renovations,” he said. “The floor was 70% gone. We’ve done almost everything.
Liberati spent so much time converting the building into a deli and bakery that he didn’t have much time to prepare to learn how to prepare and serve food.
Liberati’s Italian Deli & Bakery opened on March 15, 2002, to the enthusiasm of many people who would become regular customers, although Liberati realized there was a learning curve.
“I made my first loaf of bread the day before the opening,” he said. “The first time I used a meat slicer was the day it opened. When I opened the lunch meat, it was juicy in the plastic container it was packaged in. I pulled out some roast beef, threw it on the slicer and there was juice all over it, didn’t realize it had to be dried before putting it in the slicer.
Working as a produce clerk at a Farmer Jack supermarket for seven years, including while at university, gave Liberati a solid foundation to build on, he said.
The only thing Liberati wished he had done differently was his openness.
While that’s a nice problem to have, when Liberati first opened shoppers were so eager to check out the new store that it was a bit overwhelming.
“When we first opened, I thought I was going to be the richest man in Allen Park,” he joked. “The parking lot was full – there were people everywhere.”
Liberati said if he had to do it all over again, he would have a “soft opening”, quietly opening for a week before holding a grand opening celebration.
His original intention was to be open seven days a week, but in that first week of business he found that Friday and Saturday almost everything was sold out. He said most bakeries are usually closed on Mondays, so being open six days a week was the route he decided to go.
He and Nina decided the store would be closed on Sundays, and it has been that way for 20 years.
Liberati’s is a family business and in those days Nina was there every day. When they opened, their three children were all under 10, so their schedules had to be juggled to make things work.
However, Liberati said his company’s success would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the employees who have worked for him over the years.
Liberati served as the state representative at Lansing for six years, so he said that was a time when he particularly leaned on his managers to keep things running smoothly.
The couple continue to invest in their business, having recently installed a new counter that houses deli meats and baked goods. In addition to all the baked goods you’d expect from an Italian bakery and all the lunch meats normally found at a deli, Liberati’s also offers hot lunch and dinner items throughout the day.
Some of their offerings include soup, pasta of the day, and pepperoni rolls; as well as homemade meatballs, beef and potato pies, pizzas and their own special mix of meatballs and sausages.
Liberati said he has built a reputation over the years for giving back to the community.
“Employees tell me I never say ‘no,'” Liberati said, referring to when clients ask him for donations and sponsorships for various nonprofits, including churches, schools and teams. sports.
He said the community has supported him for the past 20 years, so he will continue to support the community.
“It’s a two-way street,” Liberati said. “We have mutual admiration.”
Frank Liberati also served as president of the Allen Park School Board for several years and served three terms as a state representative serving Allen Park, Dearborn Heights and Southgate.