Get to know Grand Rapids (and the world)

Steve Siciliano, owner Siciliano’s Market

On Tuesday, I went out to Siciliano’s Market, near Standale. Recently rated the No. 1 beer grocer in the United States by RateBeer.com, it’s a sort of Mecca for West Michigan beer lovers.

Perhaps, though, without Steve and the group at Siciliano’s, the recent craft beer boom would never have happened. A significant number of the area’s brewers started their careers as home brewers, buying they’re supplies at Siciliano’s.

The early days, shortly after Steve had moved on past his first store — 7-eleven store — were rough going for Siciliano’s Market. Those struggles moved Steve to pursue an initial investment into home brew equipment and craft beers from across the country.

He said the store was the first in the area to start offering beers available for purchase in singles. And soon, the craft beer offerings began to start gaining popularity.

For five years, Siciliano’s struggled to stay open. During that time, a “fear of failure” kept Steve trucking, a fire burning for success.

“My biggest career break was being scared shitless,” he said. “Knowing I had to come up with another month’s rent.”

Now, on a busy Saturday, the market will have more customers than in a whole week back in the tough times.

And now, after 30 years of not taking more than a week off, Steve and his wife are set to go on a two-week vacation in Italy.

He’s happy. With the RateBeer honor comes a lot of responsibility. He knows the rating isn’t the end all be all. He knows people will come to the store and say, “This is it?”

It does, however, give the local beer community the feeling as though “their team won the Super Bowl.”

He graduated from Michigan State in 1973, with a degree in journalism. He’s written a novel. He started a publishing company, Siciliano’s Market Press, and will soon put out a history of home brew book and recipe book. But there was an entrepreneurial drive that made going out on his own a necessity.

“I found out I didn’t want to work for someone,” he said, noting that not everyone wants to live a life without structure already in place. “I love figuring out the solutions to problems on my own.”

The “Super Bowl” feeling his customer felt when the store won is part of his measured success.

“Success means a lot to me, and it’s not necessarily monetary,” he said. “Money’s nice. But there’s a fulfillment of seeing what has been done and who’s done things that I’ve helped along the way.”

That’s certainly an important aspect of life that more should realize. Being appreciative of the things that have been accomplished, more so than the money that comes from them.

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