“Saturday we got married. Sunday, Italy won the World Cup, then Monday we opened up the Southside store. 2006 was a great year,” says Gino Marghella, General Manager of the Italian Centre Shops.
In true romantic Italian style, his mom went to Italy on vacation, fell in love, and his father immigrated to Edmonton to marry her. They lived in a duplex with his maternal grandparents, but at home nobody spoke English, so Marghella’s first language is Italian.
He was immersed in the traditions of Calabria, in southern Italy. His family taught him how to make sausages and wine, and the Easter and Christmas traditions – all of which have stayed with him to today.
When finishing high school in 1999, his grandfather decided that Marghella needed a job, and took him to see Mr. Spinelli, sitting outside in the sun at the Italian Centre in Edmonton’s little Italy. The memories have never faded.
“The store was a centrepiece of the community – and I fell in love with it. “
“I said, my name is Geniale, but they call me Gino here. It’s after my dad’s dad in Italy. I’m looking for a job,” recalls Marghella. “He asked for a resume to give to his daughter, Teresa, as he was sick and she was slowly taking over at that time.”
He started three days later. It was a Saturday and De Cecco pasta was on sale for 49 cents. The deli was lined up round the block.
“There was something about the deli,” he says. “It was that interaction with the customer about food; it was like history, and tradition of where we came from, and the store was a centrepiece of the community – and I fell in love with it.”
Marghella was studying economics and accounting as well as working, and has very fond memories of the time. “In the lunchroom we got to interact with all Mr. Spinelli’s friends – politicians and hockey players, and it was so neat to be around that,” he says. “On my 18th birthday, they actually took me out.” It was the guys together, and then the next day they had to work.
A position opened up for deli manager and he took it, going to school at night. A store manager position followed. Then in 2013, Teresa offered him the opportunity to open the West End store. In 2015, he was opening the Calgary store.
“It changed my life forever, because Calgary has been a beautiful place for the Italian Centre and for my family, and that’s really important, I’ve loved it ever since. My passion is passing on legacy of Mr. Frank Spinelli,” Marghella says.
“He was larger than life to a young man like me, and taught me a lot. It’s all about people, and giving me an opportunity to really do what I love. It’s going to be 20 years, and last year I’m the general manager, so I look after all the stores. I go every second week to Edmonton.”
So what bottle is Marghella saving for a special occasion?
When he came to Calgary, he bought two bottles of wine and has been saving the 2007 Masi Amarone. “The store means a lot to me, and to my family’s life, and I want to open it when we open our next store. Hopefully we’ll do it soon,” he says.
“We are lucky to be here, it’s a beautiful community. They’ve embraced us and supported us. When we open another store, there’s a few people that are going to drink it with me. My brother-in-law has been a good mentor, so I wanted to drink it with him; a glass to Teresa; and some of my guys that have been with me since Day One, and believed in the vision of what we’re trying to do here.”