With all of the commercial collapses that South Philly has experienced lately, one could easily go on a What Used To Be Tour to lament shuttered businesses. While many establishments have succumbed to a variety of factors, Nick Maiale Sr. and the personnel at Big Nick’s Cold Cuts and Italian Specialties, 1311 W. Moyamensing Ave., have won admiration as a neighborhood staple and can tout their talent as saters of calls for convenience as the powers behind the best corner store.
“Being around here makes me feel fortunate,” the proprietor said from his Lower Moyamensing-situated haunt. “There are great people who come in, and they’re the ones who inspire us to do great each day.”
The inhabitant of the 1200 block of Jackson Street noted that though cold cuts sales keep the location afloat, any visitor will find ample reasons to make extended stops, with his wife Arlene’s ricotta cookies among the chief tempters.
“I love having variety here and strive to have something new each week,” Nick Maiale Sr., whose son helms the adjacent Lil’ Nick’s Deli, said, adding that in more than 41 years of operating the space, he has prided himself on presenting fresh items, especially the produce he wakes at 4 a.m. to fetch. “Whatever you want, chances are we have it in abundance.”
If people are also seeking a gregarious and informative experience, Brian Maiale stands as their amateur psychologist, sports enthusiast, and overall curious upholder of beliefs on what a corner store should resemble.
“We live around here, too,” the 1200-block-of-Ritner-Street dweller said, “so we want to relate to our customers on many levels, not just through business transactions. It’s just nice to talk to people.”
When slicing offerings for patrons, the second-generation figure often engages in heartfelt talks about their shared interests and loves coming to know what people want through continued visits. His family runs the store, but its customers claim secondary relative status and have won his increased respect for voting the Maiale clan the winner.
“It’s nice to see that everybody looks at us as a reliable spot,” Brian said.
Millie’s looked like a million bucks in second, and Mike & Matt’s Italian Market showed sibling revelry in third. — J.M.