Palmer’s Market celebrates 100 years of serving Darien


DARIEN – Staying in business for a century is a rare achievement, but the Palmer family say it’s so much easier when customers are like family.

“We have always been rooted in the community,” Greg Palmer, whose great-grandfather, Rocco Palmierie (who later changed his name to Palmer), opened Palmer’s Meat Market for the first time on the Noroton Green in the heights in 1921. “… They know us to be up front and at the door. We know the customers. We spend a few moments stopping and saying hello. It doesn’t matter how busy you are.

Greg and his cousin, Cindy Palmer Dean, are the fourth generation of Palmer to operate the business, and the fifth and sixth generations are already waiting their turn to continue the family’s long history of serving the Darien community.

“It’s all about the community,” said Greg.

The Palmer family’s focus on community was further emphasized during the pandemic.

Cindy said because it was a private store, they were able to react quickly to the situation. They had a catering staff with no events so they decided to do a grocery concierge service for the homebound seniors, asking people to do their shopping and deliver.

She recalled how amazed they were at the community volunteering to help with the groceries.

“It was an incredibly scary time, and we were already terrified at the start, and all of those volunteers were sacrificing themselves,” Cindy said. “We had more volunteers than we knew what to do with. “

She said the elderly were so happy because they were afraid to leave their homes.

“The community just came together,” said Greg. “We just received a letter after a phone call thanking us. It really has been a terrible year, but some wonderful things have come out of it. I am honored to have been able to help during such a difficult time.

Palmierie, the family says, was an enterprising butcher who emigrated from Italy in 1902. He opened a butcher’s shop in the Bronx, NY, built it, sold it, and started over in Stamford. In 1921, he opened Palmer’s Meat Market in Darien.

Al Palmer said his grandfather started cutting meat in his basement for his friends. He had a small store in Stamford then moved to the Noroton Heights neighborhood. He said his father raced in a horse and buggy.

“The store was really small at first,” Al said, “and not self-serve. Everyone had to ask for whatever they wanted, and everything was in bulk.

Palmierie’s son and Al’s father Joseph took over the business in 1937. Over the years he has helped develop the business from a meat market to a full-service food store. , making home deliveries throughout Darien.

The family remembers Joe inherited huge relocation issues when the toll highway was created via Darien, and the Noroton Green was buried under the center of I-95 under the Noroton Avenue overpass. .

The company’s website states, “By banding together with their fellow businessmen, they formed the Noroton Heights Business Association. Palmer’s Market was part of the first building block of the new NHSC in the mid-1950s (now home to Darien Fabricare and Barrett bookstore). Eventually, the Palmer’s built a larger supermarket in its current location. Of the original businesses razed to the ground, only Palmer’s survives.

“Obviously it took almost 100 years, but I think my mom and dad worked really hard. They were well established, they were part of the fabric of the community, ”Al said.

The lessons his parents instilled were once again about customer service.

“Always give the customer what they want, not what you want. Give them what they want. It was always about being nice to people, being generous to people, and giving back to the city – be it its Little League or all of those other things for all these years. Not to mention, I don’t know the amount of monetary donations we have made over the years – we have given great support to all parts of the city, ”he said.

Palmer’s has continued to grow and Al recently reflected on his pride as the generations continue to work and keep the family business alive. He said the ability to grow with each generation is part of the store’s formula for success. ‘

“With each generation, starting with my father, they have always brought something new. My two brothers added, I added, Greg and Cindy added. Megan is doing a fantastic job. Each has added their own flavor to the store. This is why it has been a success, there is no doubt about it.

Joe’s son Rocco then took over the business, with Greg and Cindy now at the helm.

Throughout their years, the family says Palmer’s has placed an emphasis on working with local producers and supporting local farmers. In some cases, the company has kicked off large companies, such as Barenaked Granola, founded by natives of Darien, who have started selling their product at Palmer’s.

In previous years, Greg said he heard that a woman was starting a fresh breadmaking business in Norwalk; she would stop at Palmer’s when she got off the train with it. This company later became Pepperidge Farm, which is still based in the nearby town.

Palmer’s has always tried to carry specialty items that can’t be found in other markets, like pomegranate molasses or one of the first stores to carry Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Customers also love such items as the Parmesan Truffle Dip and Aunt Clara Fruit Cake. The cake is only made during the holidays and it’s a family recipe now passed down to Cindy’s daughter Megan, who runs the bakery. Megan now teaches her daughters.

This desire to offer specialized articles while focusing on customer service resonated with the community.

“I love that they’re so convenient,” Darien’s Steve Hardy said during his recent shopping at the store. “And we also use a lot of their catering, and the food is just fantastic.”

Anne Snyderm, from New Canaan, agreed.

“The people, the service, the selection of fresh produce,” Snyder said. “It’s just a big store.”

“I love coming here because they are part of the community,” said Laura Holly, of Darien. “When you come here, people know you. … It was never a chain store. … they’re just always nice and they’re always helpful. It is a friendly environment. … I’d rather go here than any other store in town.

Greg emphasized that the Palmer’s heritage is defined by customer service.

“It’s the most important thing that we small business owners can provide – great customer service. People really appreciate it. People are so out of touch with individual experiences. And you can walk into a business and have a face to face conversation, ”he said.

To maintain this level of customer service, new employees go through an extensive training process that allows them to handle any type of customer situation with a high level of professionalism, Cindy said.

“How many companies are reaching their fifth generation? Greg said.

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