It all stared with a newlywed couple, and a quaint fruit stand. Today, it has turned into a household name with a a tradition of excellence. The Cannata family has managed to turn their roadside fruit stand into South Louisiana's oldest family-owned grocery store chain.
Cannata's Family Markets was founded in 1939 by Fannie and Vincent Cannata. He started work at age 12, at his family’s corner grocery in the Carollton area of New Orleans," said his son Vince Cannata Jr., president of Cannata Companies. Born in 1914 to Italian immigrant parents, Cannata milked cows at his family's small dairy farm and delivered fresh milk door to door. Soon, his son said, Cannata expanded his product line, delivering "everything from bread, to fruits and vegetables" to homes and community markets.
Vincent eventually took his salesmanship on the road, getting his own delivery truck and "working" the New Orleans French Market. His boyhood in the business had turned him into an excellent buyer of fresh fruits and vegetables.
"He began to move loads of product, and people began to notice his expertise," Vince said of his father. Cannata’s delivery routes branched out. He sold fruit and vegetable products as far away as Morgan City.
There were satisfied customers wherever he stopped his truck.
Somewhere in his busy schedule Cannata found time for a pastime, amateur boxing, attaining enough skill to participate in a series of tournaments aimed at finding a local opponent for the renowned Joe Louis.
One of Cannata’s early New Orleans produce routes took him to the corner market and butcher shop run by the parents of Fannie Canale. A romance blossomed.
In 1939, the year they were married, Vincent and Fannie together opened a fruit stand on Second Street in Morgan City. They moved from New Orleans, but Cannata still called at the French Market.
"I'm told Dad would run back and forth to the market daily," Vince recalls. "He would call mom with what looked great, and if it was something extra special or peak of the season, Mom would get on the phone and have it sold before he got home." Local Morgan City families began to rely on the Cannatas for fresh product from the market, fresh meat and grocery staples.
As business in Morgan City prospered, the Cannatas established their first modern supermarket there, pioneers, Vince explains, in the large format, self-service layout of groceries, meat and produce.
In 1972, Cannata opened his first Houma store, with a full bakery and deli, on West Park Avenue. A major expansion in 1989 more than doubled its size. In that building today, the company Vincent Cannata started operates a "superstore" complete with in-store restaurant, catering service, flower shop, wine and liquor store and delivery service.