Born at a time when Akron’s North Hill neighborhood was a center for the area’s Italian immigrant community, Angelo DeVitis, co-founder of DeVitis Italian Market at 560 E. Tallmadge Ave., died Tuesday at age 92.
The DeVitis Italian Market has been a staple in the community for decades. Angelo DeVitis’s father, Frank DeVitis, came to the U.S. in the 1920s and began working in the grocery business before opening his own store in the early 1950s in a converted gas station on East Tallmadge Avenue.
The first store, Frank’s Fruits & Vegetables, became successful by stocking basics for the local Italian community.
“There was a big Italian presence there, and that’s what helped propel their success,” said Tony DeVitis, Angelo DeVitis’ son. “With that new store, initially they started selling only fruits and vegetables, and then to satisfy that Italian market, they started to import more of the foods that were, you know, Italian, like pasta, tomato paste and cheese.”
A family affair
The character of the neighborhood has changed, becoming home to more south Asian immigrants than those from Italy. In 2022, the former Italian Center on East Tallmadge Avenue, just a short drive from DeVitis’ store, recently became home to a Bhutanese community center.
Even so, DeVitis’ store has remained and its business has grown, becoming known throughout the region.
Angelo DeVitis was 20 when he started working at his father’s first and second stores before its current location opened in 1960 as DeVitis & Sons Italian Food & Produce, Inc.
“Frank’s Fruits & Vegetables didn’t give us an identity, so we opted for a unique title,” Angelo DeVitis states in a history of the business on the company’s website.
The store also began serving lunch entrees, soups and now prepares more than 300 sandwiches per day for local customers.
Tony DeVitis, who is also a Summit County Council member for District 8, said the store produces 32 tons of sausage per year and has become a wholesale supplier of its signature items to stores throughout the region, totaling 30,000 sandwiches per week.
Family involvement in the store continued with Angelo’s twin sons, David and Robert DeVitis, who started at age 13, as well as son Tony DeVitis, daughter Laura DeVitis and grandson Nicholas DeVitis, Robert DeVitis’ son.
Two of his children, Linda DeVitis and Danial DeVitis, were not involved with the store.
‘He’d figure out a way to do it’
Linda DeVitis called her father a “genius.”
“I mean, he was a super intelligent person who could do just about anything − if you gave him a challenge, I think he’d figure out a way to do it,” she said.
“My dad was always thinking of ingenious things, or what things could do,” she added. “He loved to go watch a bridge being built. I I think if he was born again, he might have become an engineer or an architect because he dropped everything and anything to watch construction. After he retired, that’s what he did a lot at home − making little contraptions to make things easier around the house.”
Angelo DeVitis was also dedicated to supporting the Italian-American community.
“He was a a member of Sons of Italy and the Italian American Professional Business Club and other clubs that help Italian Americans,” Tony DeVitis said. “We’re currently still members of Italian American Professional Business Club in the area and we we try to support organizations that help Italian Americans with scholarship dollars and things of that nature. We still are involved, locally, with the community and not only just to help Italian Americans, but others as well.”
Born on April 28, 1931, in Akron, Angelo DeVitis was the son of Frank DeVitis and Angeline (Tisci) Magenau.
Together with Janet (Gallimore) DeVitis, his wife of 73 years, Angelo DeVitis had six children. The couple had 11 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
The DeVitis family invites friends and well-wishers to gather for visitation at the Hennessy-Bagnoli-Moore Funeral Home, 936 N. Main Street in Akron, Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. A mass of Christian burial will be at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Anthony Catholic Church, 83 Mosser Place in Akron. A graveside service will follow at Northlawn Memorial Gardens, 4724 State Road in Peninsula.
The Moore Family Funeral Homes, Hennessy-Bagnoli-Moore Funeral Home Branch, is handling arrangements. See mooreffh.com to view Angelo’s full obituary and service information and offer tributes and condolences.
Eric Marotta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.