Gift baskets of fresh fruit a holiday tradition

Melissa Topey
Dec 23, 2013
Maschari Brothers Wholesale Fruits and Vegetables is a fourth-generation tribute to the history of small-town, community business.
 
On the brick walls of the loading and storage area are the names of some of the employees who worked there, including Pat Henry, who is now an Erie County sheriff’s deputy.

A line on the brick wall is tagged “A’s Line Memorial,” in honor of Andy Schwab, who drew it there so drivers would know how far back to pull the van. “Hundreds of people have worked here,” said Pete Maschari, who now runs the family business. He grew up working there with his sisters, Linda Ginesi and Jane Gosser. I can now count myself as an employee of Maschari Brothers, having worked there for a short while on a cold Monday afternoon. High up on the wall, scratched into the brick, is the date July 1, 1932, and the name Joseph Maschari. It was his great uncle, Joseph, and his grandfather, Pete, who ran the business at its current Washington Street location since 1925. Paul and Sally Maschari, Pete’s father and aunt, kept the family business going.

It all started with Pete’s great-grandfather, Frank, who started Maschari Brothers Wholesale Fruits in 1905 on Hayes Avenue, supplying fresh fruits and vegetables to restaurants, schools and walk-in customers.

Even though I’m not a Maschari, I was invited to help make the well-known Maschari Brothers gift baskets.

During the holiday season, starting about Thanksgiving, Maschari Brothers employees will make about 600 gift baskets — fruit baskets, baskets with chocolates, candies, cheeses, summer sausage and nuts are just the beginning.

“We make themed baskets,” LuAnn Maschari said. “We did several for a wedding of OSU alums”

I made a simple fruit basket — the company’s most popular gift — under the watchful eye and tutelage of LuAnn, Pete andPete’s son, Aaron. Aaron helped me select only the perfect apples, oranges and bananas. I even had to replace an orange that I had selected. It seemed perfect to me. “I take pride in these baskets. I hate what I see in some stores, bananas spotted. The baskets look awful” Aaron said. He can make an amazing basket inside of five minutes, shrink-wrapping it and tying the bows on top of each one. I did fairly well, even with the shrink wrap, and my fruit was placed perfectly in the basket. I used tape to make sure the items wouldn’t shift during delivery, and the shrink-wrap secures the basket even further. “You don’t know what will happen if you have to hit your brakes” Aaron said. Bottom line: The product has to arrive in flawless condition. “What do you think?” I asked, feeling pretty good about my work. “There’s no hole in the shrink wrap” Aaron said. LuAnn offered something more in line with what I was hoping for: “You did beautiful” she said. There was one final decorative topper: the bow. Each bow is tied by hand. Aaron showed me how to do it, but I just stared at him. “Want me to make the first one?” he asked. Yes, please do. His was perfect; mine wasn’t so great. “I’ve been doing this my entire life,” he said. And it showed — the final product was picture-perfect.