102-year-old family-owned grocery store forced to close because it doesn't meet codes

Neighbors upset, Milillo's owner vows to reopen
Posted at 9:58 PM, Sep 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-22 05:04:05-04

HAMILTON, Ohio – Upset residents gathered at Milillo Grocery to mourn the closing of the family-owned store that served their neighborhood for more than a century.

After 102 years in business, Milillo's closed its doors Wednesday because the city said it was not in compliance with several health and building codes.

Now it is unclear when or if it will reopen.

Milillo's has been a mainstay on Ludlow Street since 1914 when it was opened by Italian immigrant Francesco Milillo and his wife Katie. It was passed on to their son Frank and now grandson Frank.

"For 102 years it's been my family's store," Frank said as he worked the final moments behind the counter.

Like every morning, neighbors came in to pick up a snack or a drink, but all eyes were on the clock because at 11 a.m. the health department was coming.

"They've given us just an endless list -  this file folder full of issues - to repair, and we've repaired almost all of them," Frank said.

He said the store got a pass on many of the issues while his father owned it because he was grandfathered in. Now that it has passed down to him, though, the city is cracking down.

The city has tried to work with Milillo, according to an email from Bud Scharf, director of community development:

"After an inspection and offer of financial assistance by the city to make necessary improvements, the store is not in compliance with state health code," the email said.

Outside, longtime customers were visibly upset and vented to two police officers who were sent to escort the health department representatives.

"This family don't deserve this. They've been here for years. They help people out when they ain't got money," said Amanda Wright.

"When you take a neighborhood store out of a neighborhood, the neighborhood don't have nothing to look forward to anymore," April Fowler said.

 Anita Knight seemed confident the store would reopen.

"It ain't over. It ain't over. This is just a test. We're going to pass it," Knight said.

After a short time inside, the health department representatives left and Frank locked up the store. Then he addressed his supporters outside.

"They're considering me a new owner even though I'm the third Frank Milillo to stand behind that counter in the last 102 years," he said. "They consider this a new business. I'm a new owner and I have to be compliant with all of the new standards."

Milillo says he will do what it takes to reopen and the city says it will work with him.