I Publius: Guido’s is a place that gets it right

Look, we all have favorites. In my case, one of the places I love most in the world is Guido’s. I can’t get enough of the place.

When I grew up on the West Side of Manhattan, there were all these wonderful shops. Let’s see — the butcher shop, the vegetable shop, the delicatessen, the bakery. For the most part, they’re all gone. In their place is a bunch of huge banks and supermarkets with as much personality as a gas bubble.

But Guido’s, well, Guido’s is different. Guido’s takes me back to the old neighborhood of my youth. There’s Mazzeo’s Meat and Seafood, the Marketplace Kitchen, a wine shop, and a flower shop.

Now admittedly, I do shop at other local stores. For example, I wouldn’t think of buying wine anywhere but at Domaney’s. But for those who don’t want to run over to the other side of town, there it is.

You can just feel the pride that Chris Masiero and his brother, Matt, have in the place. It is as American a success story as you can find. A lot of people think that Guido’s was started by Chris and Matt’s father, Guido, for whom the store is named and who helped out there after toiling for years as a gym teacher in Manchester, Massachusetts.

Actually, Matt and Chris started the store, first on the Lenox Road in Lenox and then in Great Barrington. No matter which one you go to, the one thing that remains constant is excellence. I know someone who was watching one of the brothers bagging groceries (the managers all do that) and saw, to her astonishment, the owner of the store open a plastic container of raspberries and then go get another one because he saw a bad berry. Astounding.

I love Guido’s for a lot of reasons. First of all, everyone who works there is just plain nice. No one puts on airs. You get the feelings that they are nice and not just acting nice and that’s quite a distinction.

If you ask anyone a question, the usual drill is that they will stop what they are doing and take you where you want to go. They are all pretty knowledgeable about what they have and what they don’t have.

When I want something I know they don’t stock, I often stop first at the Big Y next door, park near the fence that finally has a walk-through in it and then go into the Guido’s. You will notice that both Big Y and Guido’s take the mandatory “the” before the proper names. That is just acceptable Berkshire style.

There are those people who believe that they are not welcome at Guido’s because they do not drive a fancy car. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The thing about Guido’s is the amount of fresh everything. I suspect that there are some folks who think that the prices at Guido’s are high. But when you are protecting your family by buying the freshest everything, you had better believe that the prices are fair.

In many stores, the fish was previously frozen. At Mazzeo’s, that is not the case. Obviously, you have to pay a little more for it but whether you wear a blue collar or a white one, your family comes first and excellence is excellence. That commitment to the best runs through the store.

I do confess that one of the reasons I love to shop at Guido’s is that you never know who you’ll run into. I don’t think it would be right to mention specific names but here are just a few of the people I have seen there: the most famous piano player in America, the best cello player in America, one of the nation’s most important pop artists, Harrison Ford’s co-star, the star of “Law and Order,” and the best and most famous actress in America.

And, you know what? You see them but you wouldn’t think of invading their space. If you did, each of them would be gracious but you might make them not want to go there anymore and then you would be to blame for ruining it for the rest of us.

Seldom do you see it done as right as you do at Guido’s. It has it all. I love it.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 2/21/09

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