Supermarket chain celebrates 90 years

Romano's in Netcong became RoNetco

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  • RoNetco got its start 90 years ago as Romano's Food Market in Netcong Photo courtesy of RoNetco

By Laurie Gordon

When a storm is coming. When it's nearly Thanksgiving or any big holiday. When your child is sick and you need a pharmacy. When you forgot to get milk, eggs, the secret ingredient to your famous chocolate chip cookies. Where do you head? For many people in the Sussex County area, the answer is simple: ShopRite.

Seven local ShopRites are operated by RoNetco Supermarkets, Inc., and RoNetco is celebrating 90 years in business serving customers in Sussex, Warren and Morris counties.

Starting from humble beginnings, the family embarked on their “American Dream” in the 1920’s. Mrs. Romano, the former Vincenzia Ann Francomacaro, was born and raised in Netcong, NJ. Thomas V. Romano, emigrated from Cesa, Italy, at the age of 19, arriving in the United States through Ellis Island in 1919. He settled in Netcongin 1924 and married Vincenzia (Fannie) in 1926.

The couple were determined entrepreneurs who began their business journey with only $100 to their name – Fannie ran a small shop in their living room selling butter, sugar, flour, milk and eggs, and Tom ran an auto shop out of their garage. As the economy went into a recession that led to the Great Depression, the auto business struggled, but the small food market thrived. Fannie convinced Tom to close the auto shop, which allowed them to move the market into bigger space in their garage. As the business grew, they moved into a free standing building in Netcong, opening “Romano’s Food Market”. Tom taught himself to cut meat and would frequently travel to Newark to purchase meat and other goods for their new store.

In 1954, the Romanos joined a new grocery buying cooperative known as Wakefern Food Corporation, which was created to give small, independent store owners the purchasing power to compete against the large supermarkets of the day, such as A & P. As a member of the cooperative, the Romanos opened their first ShopRite supermarket, located in Netcong, in 1956. Their four children, Pasquale (Pat), Estelle (Stella), Cecelia (Cissy) and Dominick, were all involved in the business in various capacities, with Pat and Dominick running the business after Tom and Fannie stepped back in later years. Dominick V. Romano, the only surviving child of Tom and Fannie, is currently chairman of the Board of RoNetco. The third generation, Dominick J. and David P. Romano, their grandsons, are co-presidents of the company.

From their first ShopRite in Netcong, which moved to its current location in 1964, the family opened more stores as the communities in Northwestern New Jersey grew. Their second store opened in Hackettstown in the 1960’s but was the tragedy of a fire in the 1980’s. Their existing stores today are: Netcong (1964), Newton (1972), Succasunna (1974), Mansfield (1977), Franklin (1994), Byram (1998) and Flanders (2004). RoNetco is headquartered in Ledgewood, and the company employs more than 1,800 associates and has plans to open two new stores, in Sparta and Sussex.

RoNetco is a family business in the truest sense of the words. It has numerous long-time associates, many of whom have dedicated 25, 35 and 40 years of their careers to the company. Since the opening of their first store, and before they were even in print, the Romano family and RoNetco have proudly stood by their Core Values of “Acting with Integrity, Respect for All, Caring Deeply, Challenging Themselves, and Welcoming all to their Family.”

RoNetco believes in giving back to the community and to this end, supports hundreds of local organizations in their charitable fund-raising efforts. In addition, associates from the stores participate in both the MS Walk and March of Dimes Walk, the Special Olympics Torch Run, and Earth Day Clean Teams. Summer and winter blood drives are held annually, collecting over five hundred pints each year.RoNetco is a major supporter of the NJ State Fair in Augusta, Harvest Fest to support the Growing Stage Children’s Theatre in Netcong, An Evening of Wine & Roses to benefit Newton Medical Center Foundation and the Annual Pat Romano, Sr., Golf Outing benefiting the SCARC Foundation in Sussex County. The Company’s Purpose is “to care deeply about people, helping them to eat well and be happy.” This motto is the “driving force” behind every decision they make with their community involvement, and with their customers in the stores.

RoNetco’s purpose statement shines true, especially during the company's annual Partners in Caring Program. Thanks to the generosity of customer donations, RoNetco ShopRite stores have raised nearly one million dollars in the past fifteen years to help stock local food pantries via the ShopRite Partners in Caring Program. In 2016, the seven ShopRite stores raised over $117,000 for the program. Each year, RoNetco donates a matching gift of up to $25,000 to the regional food bank to be used by local food pantries. Ronetco also gives back to its customers. On special or just random occasions, they'll have hot dogs outside the store or a big cake inside. And don't be surprised around Christmas time if you're roaming around the store and suddenly hear a live chorus.

Over the years RoNetco has grown and changed to meet the challenges of the economy and the changing tastes of its customers. Famous for its “Can-Can Sale”, ShopRite and the Romanos have always strived to offer customers the best value for their money, keeping its product mix new while offering family favorites at the same time. To meet the ever growing demand for products and services to meet customers’ health and wellness needs, RoNetco has increased its organic produce selections, now offers the new “Wholesome Pantry” line of products and introduced Registered Dietitians in its stores to offer free in-store nutrition counseling and programs to the customers in the communities that we serve. In the stores, they believe in following their service priorities of safety, friendliness, presentation, and efficiency to meet the needs of their customers and Associates alike.

“RoNetco attributes the success of their business to their loyal customers in the surrounding communities, their hardworking dedicated associates, and a philosophy that involves never settling, always striving for greatness, and constantly moving forward,” said Dominick V. Romano, the Chairman of the Board, said. “Good, better, best. Never take a rest. Until the good is better and the better is best.”

RoNetco invites its customers to join with them as they celebrate 90 years of being able to serve families and friends in the neighborhoods where their stores are located and looks forward to being a part of the community for many more years to come.

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