Meridian Industrial

VINNIE'S LITTLE ACRE

8/31/2022 | KEITH O'CONNOR

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In the early 1950s, a young 10-year-old Vincent “Vinnie” Cianfarani, Jr. could be found sitting at a roadside card table at his father’s farm on Park Avenue in Windsor selling quarts of tomatoes - filled with 3, 4 or 5 of the red beauties - for 25 cents.

Those were the days.

Today he says he is “80 and crazy and still trying to defy the odds” and running Vinnie’s Little Acre, what he calls a farm market store that he describes as “indoors not out.”

“We operate out of bushels, baskets, crates, and boxes, displaying produce in its natural form like you would have seen in the fifties and sixties years ago at roadside stands,” Cianfarani said.

The store also offers cash and carry flowers, annuals and perennials, vegetable plants and herbs, hanging baskets and planters, nursery products such as mulch and fertilizer, imported Italian and Polish products, and a deli selling meats and cheeses by the pound as well as all of your favorite salads from potato to macaroni and chicken to tuna salad.

“There is no grocery store in town (Windsor Locks) and we are the only place you can buy a fresh tomato or head of lettuce. We have 3,200 square feet of meticulously displayed produce of the highest quality that I purchase not only from local growers but from farmers throughout the state,” Cianfarani said.

Among the farms he supports include Dzen Farms in South Windsor, DeFrancesco Farm in Northford, Geremia Farms in Wallingford, Morell Farms in East Windsor, Diglio's Country Farm in North Branford and many others.

From that little card table Vinnie once sat at, he graduated into a tent where they continued to sell tomatoes, as well as corn and other fresh vegetables grown on the farm.

“Back in the late 1950s and early 1960s we would sell 500 dozen ears of corn on both Saturday and Sunday and another couple hundred a day during the rest of the week from mid-July through Labor Day. Today I can’t sell 500 dozen the whole year,” Cianfarani said.

The reason says the produce king is part eating trends, but more so for business/marketing purposes today.

“Seventy years ago things were different. Grocery stores were closed on Sundays and had limited hours during the week. Today some are open 24 hours. So, small roadside stands had a chance back then, today they are almost extinct. Now, you can walk into a Costco, Stop & Shop or Big Y, for example, and you are faced with almost a half-acre of produce staring you in the face. Back in the day you might have gone to the farm to get your eggs, corn and other veggies, then to the meat guy. It’s one-stop shopping these days at the supermarket where you throw everything into your cart and hand them your plastic at the checkout counter,” Cianfarani said.

Cianfarani eventually grew up, left the farm and got married at the age of 20. He went on to become produce manager at area supermarkets in Connecticut where he learned the skill of merchandising, including at Popular Markets, Edward’s supermarkets and Big Y where he retired from, while continuing to maintain roadside stands at various locations in Connecticut.

“There is a big difference between a farmer at his roadside stand and a merchandiser at a supermarket. A farmer is a farmer who simply puts out his produce for sale at a roadside stand
without much thought to how it is displayed. But a merchandiser considers how a display looks so as to appeal to the customer and help make the sale. Color is one thing, grouping product colors together, and putting citrus items with fruits and vegetables with vegetables. I believe displaying produce is one of my best qualities,” Cianfarani said.

While some fresh summer veggies still remain for sale at Vinnie’s Little Acre, September has arrived and the fall and winter months are just ahead and ripe for the sale of peaches, nectarines, plums, 30 varieties of apples, and several varieties of squashes including acorn, butternut, spaghetti, buttercup and honeynut, as well as sweet potatoes, sugar pumpkins, silver queen corn, sweet corn and butter and sugar corn and fall cabbage, beets and carrots.

And, to accompany the apple season, Cianfarani promises plenty of delicious and refreshing apple cider to imbibe from Buell’s Orchard in Eastford, CT.

The farm market store is entering its busiest time of the year with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon. “We will be selling all sizes of corn stalks, gourds both large and small, bales of straw, Indian corn, and all of your fall décor products. Of course, we will have pumpkins, too, which will be outdoors set up just like a pumpkin patch, so you can select the ones you want - some will be painted, some will be carved, and some will be natural just the way they were picked,” Cianfarani said.

As the holidays approach, customers will find wreaths, some decorated, kissing balls, cemetery boxes, and Connecticut-grown Christmas trees including Fraser and Douglas Firs, Balsam, and White and Blue Spruce.

During the off-season, customers seeking their favorite fruits and vegetables - especially those vitamin C rich clementines, tangerines, grapefruits, and navel, temple and mandarin oranges - can continue to find them at Vinnie’s Little Acre, where Cianfarani has them shipped in mostly from California, Florida and the Carolinas.

As the new year begins, Cianfarani says business slows up somewhat, but keeps busy with deli orders and with the many plants and flowers he brings in - especially all the roses that fill the store from head to toe for Valentine’s Day - for the spring holidays including Easter, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

Year-round at their deli, Cianfarani says he is proud to have a sandwich named after him called The Vincenzo.

“It’s got four kinds of Italian meats, four kinds of cheese, a special Caesar salad dressing and lots more,” he said.

The Vincenzo boasts Mortadella, Genoa Salami, Hot Capicola, Pepperoni, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion, Oil & Vinegar, Provolone, Asiago and American Blend, Swiss, all on a Grinder Roll.

The Vincenzo stands alongside other sandwiches such as The Madeline, The Kickin’ Roast Beef and Ham It up, as well as wraps including Gary’s Zing
Zing, Chef’s Salad Wrap, Tuna Wrap and The Veggie Wrap. There are also healthy Chef, Buffalo, Veggie and Tuna salads to choose from.

Also, for sweet tooths, although they don’t bake their own, Cianfarani noted they carry freshbaked pies - apple, blueberry, strawberry rhubarb, coconut custard, cherry, lemon, chocolate crème and other tasty varieties in large and individual sizes - from Granny’s Pie Factory in East Hartford, CT, and Formisano Bakery in Saugerties, NY.

“Our pies are especially popular around Thanksgiving and Christmas, but sell all yearround, as do the cider donuts and apple fritters that are so delicious,” he said from firsthand experience.

VINNIE’S LITTLE ACRE
IS CURRENTLY OPEN DAILY FROM 10 A.M. TO 6 P.M.,
WITH EXTENDED HOURS AS THE FALL AND WINTER
HOLIDAY SEASONS APPROACH. CALL (860) 758-5083
FOR THE LATEST HOURS AND HOLIDAY CLOSINGS
OR VISIT THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE

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