The Lagana family, pictured from left: Brigit, Rocco, Gemma, Lorenzo, and Valerie.
Lagana Family Still Home for the Holidays
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Rockridge Deli and Florist’s Lagana family is making a landmark New Year’s resolution to move by the spring of 2020. Lucky for us, they’re just relocating to a newly built, expansive space across the current parking lot. Until then, however, the 46-year-old shop is business as usual and poised to fill the community’s last-minute holiday needs with fruit, cheese or cookie baskets, fresh pies, floral centerpieces, poinsettias, wreaths, balsam and Fraser fir Christmas trees, and firewood.
Rocco Lagana and his wife Gemma, alongside their children Lorenzo and Brigit, have been celebrating Christmas in the very building at 280 Purchase Street for decades, so the move is tinged with nostalgic ambivalence. Moreover, before opening for business in the modern, two-story structure, demolition of their beloved store is required.
“I’m excited to see the new place open, but I don’t want to be here when our store comes down,” admitted Rocco, who is planning a get-away down south with Gemma when the time comes.
“Our father built this store with his own hands and we’ve seen it evolve,” said Brigit, who also works as an aide at Midland School. “My brother Lorenzo has done an amazing job of progressing the family business into what it has become today, but it’s still bittersweet.”
Rocco and Gemma originally opened up a fruit stand in what was a three-bay garage. They practically raised their family there and transformed a modest business into Rye’s go-to deli and full-service florist, headed up by Gemma’s sister, Maria Torelli. Almost five decades later, they made the decision to erect the new structure with apartments above it in an effort to utilize more of their property and fall in line with the north side of Rye’s gentrification. In phase II of their plan, retail and apartments will also go up on the original footprint in the coming year.
“We’ve spent all these years in one place, so it’s going to be a big change,” admitted Lorenzo, whose wife Valerie works behind the cash register. “I’m glad my parents are here to see the fruits of their labor.”
Undoubtedly, their loyal clientele will follow them across the way. “Kids who came here for their favorite sandwiches while they were in school now come back with their own kids. Our customers are like family,” agreed the siblings.
The special familiarity the Laganas share with their patrons is even reflected in the deli menu. In addition to hot breakfasts and lunches, sandwiches and wraps, crazy and super crazy combos are often named for customers.
“We love all our customers and wouldn’t be here for so long if it weren’t for them,” noted Gemma.