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Cirelli Foods

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John Cirelli, Founder and Chairman of Cirelli Foods, Leaves Long Legacy in the Wake of His Passing

In 1946, John Cirelli started selling Italian food products door to door in Brockton, MA heralding the birth of Cirelli Foods, now New England's largest family owned broadline foodservice distributor.

Middleborough, MA, October 27, 2007 --( “Depend on us like family” was the motto of John Cirelli, the Founder and Chairman of Cirelli Foods who passed away on October 23, 2007 at the age of 94. As the Cirelli family patriarch, John Cirelli practiced that credo daily as he guided the progress of Cirelli Foods since it’s inception in 1946.

John Cirelli shepherded the company’s rise from its humble beginnings as a one man operation in Brockton, MA, to it’s present position as an $80 million business that is New England's largest family owned broadline foodservice distributor, reaching over 4,000 customers in the Northeast, with 124 employees headquartered in Middleborough, MA.

From Humble Beginnings
John P. Kelleher, John Cirelli’s great grandson, revealed many aspects of his grandfather’s rise to success on the occasion of John Cirelli’s induction into the Hospitality Hall of Fame of the National Restaurant Association, Massachusetts Chapter, in 2005.

The son of Italian immigrants, John Cirelli was raised in Brockton, MA along with his sister and three brothers, and it was in Brockton, MA that Cirelli Foods was born. As an enterprising young man in 1946, John Cirelli realized that there was a growing demand for Italian food products in the Brockton area so he set out to fill that need.

The first Cirelli warehouse was located in the trunk of his car, as John went door-to-door in Brockton selling canned tomato goods that he purchased from suppliers in the North End of Boston. The quality of Cirelli’s products attracted the attention of area restaurant operators who became customers as well. Soon, John's three brothers Vic, George, and Joe all joined the growing business in the early 1950’s. As the company became more and more successful, the Cirelli brothers expanded beyond Italian foods, offering a broader line of products.

Brockton roots
Mom and pop grocers, along with more restaurant and café owners, added to Cirelli’s steadily growing stream of customers. As a result, the warehouse expanded into the family garage, then to a larger building built in John Cirelli’s backyard, and then to rented space in Brockton’s business district. In 1952, Cirelli Foods was incorporated, and a former stable used to store glue for Walkover shoes was purchased and converted for food storage. Soon after, with the addition of a conveyor, the storage was expanded to all three floors of the building.

In the 1960’s, keeping abreast of the latest trends such as the advent of frozen foods and the growth of interstate highways, the Cirelli brothers hired John Cirelli’s son-in-law, Harold Kelleher Sr., to design and build a modern food service sales and distribution facility adjacent to Route 24 in Brockton.

When the West Chestnut Street facility opened in 1967, Jennie Cirelli, John Cirelli’s wife, left Knapp Shoe to work as the receptionist at the new building. With John Cirelli and his brothers as the mind and muscle of Cirelli Foods, Jennie became its heart, forming a synergy that generated tremendous good will for the business.

Cirelli Foods remained in its West Chestnut street location in Brockton, MA until 2004, when the company moved lock stock and barrel to its new custom-built 130,000 square foot headquarters in Middleborough, MA. The Cash and Carry department that brought the public to the Cirelli Foods warehouse in 1967 continues today as a popular venue called Cirelli Marketplace at Cirelli’s Middleborough location.

The Cirelli tradition
As Cirelli Foods mourns the loss of its stalwart anchor John Cirelli, many Cirelli family members will carry on, keeping the Cirelli tradition of a family owned and operated business alive and thriving.

Cirelli Foods
For additional information about Cirelli Foodservice, please call 1-800-242-0939, 1-508-947-8778, or email:; for Cirelli Marketplace please call 1-508-947-8211 or email:; or visit

Contact Information
Cirelli Foods
Amy Roussel

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