YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – From 1900 to the 1960s, when supermarkets started being built, many people in Youngstown bought their groceries at a neighborhood market. There were dozens of them across the city, most of which are now gone. But there’s still one open on the east side, even though the neighborhood around it is gone.
Jack Esmail and his wife Zena have owned Augusta Market at North Hine and Augusta streets since 1987. It was built as a grocery store in 1910. The road out front is still brick. The neighborhood was once wall-to-wall houses. Today, it’s almost all vacant lots with ghost steps scattered about.
“I’d say about the last 15 to 20 years the neighborhood went down,” Esmail said.
But Augusta Market has remained open. The bells on the front door ring every time another customer shows up. It’s small with two aisles and three throws of shelves.
“Overall, it’s still the same. It was built in 1910 and it’s still about the same exact thing,” Jack said.
“The customers are family. We’re basically family. We know everything about each other. We’re Facebook friends,” Zena said.
Jack says the number one seller is the souse meat. It’s a deli item made from a hog’s head, and Augusta Market is one of the few places in town that sells it.
“I love it, and whenever I get the craving for it, I come here,” said customer Bertha Giles.
Giles frequents the store because there was a time when the Esmails helped her out.
“This place would take care of me and be like come and get whatever you want, and you can just pay me the first of the month or whatever,” Giles said.
Gary Herring said the market was his father’s go-to store.
“He gave it all here. This is where he came and got all his bacon and souse meat. We’ve been coming here for years,” Herring said.
And Augusta Market remains profitable.
“It’s paying the bills. Nothing to write home about, you know, it’s paying the bills,” Esmail said
Esmail has no plans to close. He says it’s not hard work and he enjoys the customers.
“You get to know about them every day. You know them by name. You know their grandkids. You’ve seen them grow up and that. So, if I can make it, I am still staying,” Esmail said.
North Hine Street is one-way, so people driving up to the store approach it from the back. Twenty years ago, Esmail decided to use the back to advertise his meats. On the brick wall, he painted pig’s feet, ox tails, neck bones, and ham hocks. It’s part of the character of the building.