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Tops Friendly Markets: Supermarket Chain

February 24, 2014

Many success stories in America have come from immigrants who worked hard to make their dreams come true. This can be said of Tops Friendly Markets which was co-founded by Armand Castellani. He was born in a village outside Rome, Italy in 1917.

His family moved to the U.S. in 1920 where they eventually settled in Niagara Falls, New York. The family opened a grocery store which Armand and his brother Alfred eventually took over and opened two more stores under the name Great Bear Market.

Thomas Buscaglia who owned T.A. Buscaglia Equipment Company met Armand in the 1950s. Thomas asked Armand to enter into a joint venture with him. This joint venture was named Niagara Frontier Services and was the precursor of Tops Markets. Another key member of their team at that time was Savino Nanula.

The modern day supermarkets were beginning to crop up and Armand was also interested in the concept. Armand and Thomas partnered with a group of independent Bell store owners which included Alfonse and Leonard DiMino as well as others who joined them as strategic partners in their early and expanding retail grocery business.

The group set up their headquarters in Buffalo in 1958. The year 1960 saw them open their first modern supermarket. This was a 25,000 square foot store located on Portage Road in Niagara Falls. The franchising systems were established by supermarkets in 1962 under the Tops Friendly Markets name, and for smaller stores as B-Kwik. The company was able to grow efficiently through the 1960s by implementing warehousing and centralized purchasing.

Armand became CEO when Thomas died in 1967. Niagara Frontier Services went public in 1968 trading in the American Stock Exchange. It would become a private company in 1983 after private investment group SB Investors bought it in 1983.

It became a public company again in 1985 then was acquired by Ahold in 1991. Morgan Stanley Private Equity bought what is now Tops Friendly Markets LLC on October 11, 2007. Top Markets announced a management buyout in November 2013.

Today Tops Friendly Markets has stores in western, central and northern regions of New York, in Vermont and in northern Pennsylvania. It has 159 full service supermarkets.

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