Focus of longtime small businesses changes


As the city of Rome has aged, so too, have the focus of longtime small businesses.

Over the years, Ferlo’s Original Bakery at 522 Floyd Ave. has occupied a few different spots around Rome - Black River Boulevard, Locomotive Avenue...

The business traces its roots back to either 1896 or 1900 - there’s a bit of discrepancy, says owner Carmen Ferlo - but nonetheless, generations of his family have worked the ovens which roll out fresh bread and pastries on the daily.

“Now, we are the only bakery in town … unless you count supermarkets,” he said.

And that longevity he attributes to always examining what you are doing and readjusting or right sizing your operations to fit what you are doing and where you are going. Noting for example, a move from their Black River Boulevard location after the closure of the Griffiss Air Force Base that was prompted by high utility bills compared to less customer foot traffic as people started leaving town.

Jim DiBella, owner of DiBella’s Gifts, agrees.

While his business has been in the same spot for decades, he has been able to adjust his offerings with the changing neighborhood.

“It’s no secret, DiBella’s, 506 N. James St. Downtown Rome’s Neighborhood Shop, creates unique and attractive gift arrangements,” notes a marketing statement, “...Since 1961, DiBella’s, a family business, has been creating tasteful and tasty gift baskets for nearly 50 years. Originally famous for fruit baskets, DiBella’s is now also known for beer, pasta and snack gift baskets.”

But, as changes have come to the city over the years in terms of neighborhood identity, shifting population, and customer base, DiBella’s has also changed.

The spot was originally a neighborhood grocery store (dating from the 1940s at least) when the DiBella family bought it in 1961.

For the first few years, the family carried on with the full service grocery, but larger national chain grocers began moving into Rome - like the rest of the country.

At that time, DiBella’s did have a fruitbasket business, and so additional food gift baskets were added in over the years as grocery offerings were eventually faded out as their sales dwindled, DiBella explains.

By 1981, items such as games and other gift items began being added into the mix. Later, wicker baskets, craft and imported beers, specialty food baskets have all made focused appearances over the years as trends have changed.

“It’s a mish mash now,” he said of his business that is known for custom gifts baskets, straight out of his imagination.

“People are going to shop wherever. ...Where is retail going?” he asks.

For DiBella and Ferlo’s, it’s all about local service.


DiBella’s Gifts, visit:

Ferlo’s Original Bakery, visit:


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