About four and a half years ago, Chris Unangst heard through the grapevine that Bill’s Variety store at 504 West Thomas Street was for sale. The small market had been a convenience spot (named by a longtime former owner Bill Izzo) for as long as he could remember.
It was looking for a new owner, and he wanted to help carry on that spot’s tradition. So, he bought the business. “It’s been there over 50 years. … I grew up as a kid going there,” he said, adding that he heard history from farther back that there was a post office and pharmacy at the location.
And, like all small neighborhood stores, Bill’s Variety has its own character. “Sundays are always busy. Lottery ticket offerings are a big draw. ...Hands down, especially when there’s a huge jackpot,” Unangst said.
Now, Unangst is passing Bill’s Variety (the name will remain the same) to a new owner who also remembers it as a neighborhood fixture and pledges it will remain that way. Lottery tickets, beverages, snacks and all.
Unangst said finding new owners 21- year-old Ian Perfetti along with his dad, Dennis Perfetti, and friend Carlos Dipini was easy.
“Word of mouth got out and (Ian Perfetti) came in. … Word of mouth is pretty quick,” Unangst said. That was how he came to buy the business years ago.
Like Unangst, Ian Perfetti, who grew up a few blocks away, remembers coming to the store to get snacks while he was growing up. Perfetti said the focus in taking over the business was, “keeping it in the community. Keep the building filled. ...It’s a neighborhood store.”
Monday was the first day open under the new ownership.
As Perfetti talked from behind the register, a customer came in to buy bread sourced locally from Ferlo’s Bakery. That bakery is also supplying tomato pie slices, Perfetti said.
“I need my Red Bull. ...The place is looking good,” announced one woman running in for a quick beverage grab.
The owners say there have been a couple of small changes made. The store is now open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Also, there is a coffee club — a pot of coffee brewing all the time ($1 for a 16 ounce cup) — and a table and chairs at the rear of the business. There’s a shelf there for those who want to leave their own coffee mug.
While most of the offerings will remain the same, there are a few additions planned to round out the offerings.
A small section of personal care items are planned, and the owners are working on being able to sell beer.