From small town grocery to Oklahoma Italian food icon: The inspiration for change came from the portraits on the walls

Great State

KREBS, Okla. (KFOR) — The cloud of witnesses watches from every wall of Lovera’s Grocery.

The widowed Italian mother who lost a husband and son in a coal mine explosion, the father who came back from the Navy after WWII to open Mike’s Grocery and Meat Market.

“Mike’s mother convinced her son to buy this store,” says Domenica Lovera, “and work it with his brother-in-law.”

The sign says Lovera’s Market now.

Another sign limits this small store to 3 customers at a time.

“Your neighborhood grocery stores are a thing of the past,” she continues.

Domenica wears a mask to cover most of her face because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but, lately, that mask is also a good cover for tears.

Her husband, Sam Lovera, died suddenly this winter.

The man who turned a small town grocery into an Italian food industry left it all behind for his family to run.

“It’s only been 3 months,” she says quietly, “but it feels like forever.”

Domenica loves to tell the story of how Sammie sent his dad on a trip to Italy in the 1970s only to change everything in the store while he was gone.

‘Big Mike’ was pretty mad at the time.

Domenica laughs, “He told him to ‘get the hell out’, and then a month or two later he called Sam back and said, ‘Oh, son. This is so much better.'”

Sam pivoted his business at the right time.

He made sauce, and sausage, and ‘Cociocavera’ cheese that Sam’s grandson is in charge of making now.

“I grew up above the store,” says Matteo Lovera. “and I worked here my whole life.”

While we were trying to keep up with Domenica for a couple of hours on day we managed to ask how she was getting along, how the business was faring up under a new crisis no one had ever seen.

Her response was to look up on the walls and compare her job to theirs.

Domenica says, “When you think you have it rough you just have to think of the people who came before you.”

The secret isn’t in the sauce.

It’s in the name on the label.

Lovera’s Grocery is still open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays and you can find their sauces, pastas, cheese, and sausage at stores all over the U.S.

For more information or to order online, go to their website.

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