Honoring his family’s legacy is the most important thing for Joe Maiorana. That’s why, when looking to renovate his family’s longtime market, he opted to give the entrance a “farm stand feel.”
Today, that feeling is evident at Joe’s Produce Gourmet Market, located on Seven Mile just east of Farmington Road in Livonia. There’s plenty of products to see before customers even enter the store, an homage to his family’s roots as farmers selling their goods along the road.
“It kind of gets us back to our farm market roots,” said Maiorana, a third-generation owner.
From farm stand to a major shopping experience, Joe’s Produce celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. It’s become a destination for those seeking the best products, be it farm-fresh produce or a signature dish for dinner created by the market’s team of trained chefs.
First began in 1945 right near the Maiorana farm off Seven Mile, Joe’s Produce has remained a staple of the community since. Bringing in fresh, high-end ingredients is enough to keep local customers stopping in and even bringing them back after they leave town: Maiorana said he routinely sees customers that have moved to places like Brighton make the drive to shop.
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The market has grown from its original look, especially in the last 15 years. The main store was expanded in 2007, including the grand entrance. Then in 2012, Joe’s Meat and Seafood, along with Art of Bread by Joe’s opened up in the strip mall adjacent to the market, property owned by the market.
That additional meat market, Maiorana said, has been an incredible add for customers looking to get the fresh meat and seafood around.
“We just expanded with consumer needs,” he said. “We try to give them a one-stop culinary experience.”
‘Best ingredients around’
Joe’s Produce employee Kais Zaya freshens up their fruit and vegetable display on Sept. 25, 2020. (Photo: JOHN HEIDER | hometownlife.com)
Stepping inside the main market is enough for customers to begin drooling immediately. Before shoppers head over to the produce area, they walk through the deli and prepared foods section, where plenty of already-made dinner options are ready to take home and serve to the family. Dishes such as seafood lasagna, risotto balls, fish tacos, pot roast and more can be taken home and and served on the table, saving time in the kitchen.
Executive Chef Lee Ulrich said he’s been at the market the last 10 years and has stuck around because of the quality of both his staff and the food.
“I get to work with the best ingredients around,” said Ulrich, a graduate of Schoolcraft College. “Everything that gets cooked here gets cooked from scratch.”
Wander past that area and customers will find the bakery, filled with attractive pies, cakes and other yummy treats. The heart of the market sports the main attraction: plenty of produce, much of it from Michigan farmers.
Travel to the back of the store and stumble across the beer and wine section, where sommelier Filippo Morandi will make sure the right bottle of wine is found to go with that special meal.
The shopping center also received a facelift in 2017 with a refreshed look on the plaza itself. It houses several clients, including Fantastic Sams, a UPS Store and the newest tenant, Maya Cocina Mexicana, a high-end Mexican restaurant that opened earlier this summer after more than a year of work on the space.
Having those tenants, and adding Maya to the plaza, helps to showcase what Joe’s Produce is all about, Maiorana said.
“I think that we all help each other,” he said. “I think Maya is doing a fantastic job.”
The market has cemented its place in Livonia history, serving as a beacon of fresh food since before Livonia incorporated as a city. Dan West, president of the Livonia Chamber of Commerce, said Joe’s Produce shows the type of success that can be found across the city.
“Over 75 years, three generations of the Maiorana family turned a farm and fruit stand into a destination store. There are some regular customers who drive from Brighton and Howell to shop at Joe’s Produce,” he said. “The successful evolution of this business is a tribute to this family’s work ethic, determination, ingenuity and local support. We are proud they made it happen in Livonia.”
The market continues to move forward in an ever-changing environment: due to COVID-19, Joe’s Produce has begun offering online ordering and curbside pickup through its website, designed for those not comfortable being around others. They’ve kept all their employees working throughout the pandemic, something Maiorana is pleased to see.
Having his staff, one he’s proud of, makes it that much easier to enjoy being in his line of work.
“I still enjoy it. It’s what I like to do,” he said. “I feel that we have a really good crew and we’re customer-service oriented and quality-oriented.
“I couldn’t ask for more.”
Contact reporter David Veselenak at [email protected] or 734-678-6728. Follow him on Twitter @davidveselenak.
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