Albert Guarnieri Sr.: Late 1800's Italian American Success Story

Il Festival italiano a Warren ha reso omaggio all’italoamericano Albert Guarnieri Sr. Emigrato da Neirone in  provincia di Genova all’età di 20 anni, ha avviato un’attività di vendita di frutta e verdura che nel corso degli anni si è sviluppata diventando nel 1888 la Albert Guarnieri & Company Inc., distributrice di successo di prodotti alimentari all’ingrosso in Ohio e Pennsylvania. Definito il ‘pioniere dell’area di Warren’, Guarnieri si è senza dubbio affermato come uno degli uomini d’affari più influenti di Warren e forse il primo immigrato italiano in questa città.

This year in the Italian Festival culture tent, our event was honored to feature a local Italian American, who, by his humble beginnings as a fruit stand owner, has created a positive influence in our area as well as the country. Enjoying every moment looking through old newspaper articles and sharing family stories with Mrs. Elaine Rossi Wallace, I was compelled to write about her grandfather, the late Mr. Albert Guarnieri Sr. I hope you enjoy this brief history about one of Warren, Ohio’s influential business men and possibly the first Italian immigrant to the city.

At the age of 20 arriving in Warren, OH from Neirone, Italy (Genoa) Albert opened his business. Mr. Guarnieri Sr. was labeled an “area pioneer Warren merchant” after operating his confectionary store from 1888 through 1919. The Albert Guarnieri business was first located on Main St. It later moved to a larger building at 33 Market St. between Main and Park Ave. It sold fruits, nuts, cigars, and tobacco imported from California, foreign and tropical regions. He purchased fruits by the carload (train) and had the most abundant supply of cigars in the city. There was also an extensive candy department. Many delicacies were handmade. The leading feature of this growing business was the manufacturing of ice cream – once known as the largest in this part of the state. His parlor was a Warren summertime paradise. As of 1898, the business was also wholesale and legend has it that the wholesale portion was the first in the city.

Albert Guarnieri Sr. was married on October 14, 1887 to the former Mary Basso, a young lady from Cleveland. Three of their sons and two of their daughters helped at the store because of a salesman’s suggestion, “Let the kids do the delivering.” Albert Jr. and Lewis started transferring merchandise including ice cream to area retail stores – via their bicycles! Lena, the couple’s daughter, was quoted saying, “When school was out at 4 p.m., we ran through the courthouse yard and had to be at the store for work by 4:05!”

Education was important to the hard-working Guarnieri’s. Lena Marie was the first Italian American girl to graduate from Warren High School in 1918. Lewis L. and Paul became prominent attorneys and Albert Jr. a successful business man.

Their home at 418 East Market was full of family and friend get-togethers. Albert’s generosity and community interest, dedication to St. Mary’s church, a charter member of the Warren council of the Knights of Columbus and the old Warren board of trade (present day Warren Chamber of Commerce) created many friendships.

After 33 years in business, Mr. Guarnieri Sr. retired and a few years later his son Albert Guarnieri Jr. continued with family tradition. Hence, we now have Albert Guarnieri and Company serving our area and beyond for over 100 years.