A Brief History of a Long-Standing Establishment
What is now Airport Grocery was born in the midst of the Depression. Mr. Joseph E. Rocconi, Italian immigrant, opened Rocconi and Sons, a small grocery store. His idea was to provide inexpensive food for nearby families, friends, neighbors and plantation workers.
The original grocery was a wooden building located near his home, about 400 yards south of new Highway 8. As the grocery
store began to grow, Joseph Rocconi moved across the highway near the airport, which at the time consisted of only one hangar owned by Raymond Meeks. Thus, Airport Grocery was reborn and renamed accordingly.
The Rocconi brothers would own and operate Airport Grocery for the next few decades. Richard Rocconi, Joseph's third son, managed the store taking after his father. But when he left to serve his country in WWII, Mike Rocconi tried his hand, followed then by Julius. But is was Jim Rocconi who began Airport Grocery’s long-standing tradition of serving the public delicious and inexpensive meals when he took over the business in 1948. This Rocconi brother sold two sandwiches, a cake and a Coke for $.25
to hungry customers. Not only was Jim selling hearty meals to the people of Cleveland, but he also kept a secret liquor stash. Jim
hid his liquor behind what they called “The Iron Curtain” and kept many people happy during those times.
In the late sixties, Jim sold Airport Grocery to John “Buster” Mengarelli who, with the help of his wife and children, offered gasoline, groceries and delicious hamburgers to the public just as his predecessors had done before him. However, he made significant change—he added pool tables. Consequently, Airport Grocery became a gathering place for locals as well as students from Delta State University.
Mr. Robert Ferri purchased the business in 1992, but his stay was short-lived due to an untimely death only five months after the purchase.
Mr. Jonathan Vance, the current owner, picked up where the others had left off and realized soon after there was not much of a market anymore for gas and groceries outside of the city limits. So the gas pumps were removed and one by one the grocery aisles gave way to dinner tables and booths. As more and more people learned of the good food and good times to be had at the Airport Grocery, the pool tables also shifted to the back to make room for more dining tables.
Airport Grocery has maintained that down-home family feel passed on by the Rocconi family. And as the years pass, even music, especially the Blues, has found a niche in the laid-back atmosphere. Musicians such as Willie Foster, Frank Frost, Sam Carr, Fingers Taylor and Blind Mississippi Morris have all given remarkable performances on Airport Grocery’s humble stage.
Even though Airport Grocery’s menu has evolved a bit from “farm” lunches to Bar-B-Que, the hamburgers have remained a staple.
As you can see, we now offer everything from steaks to seafood to southern soul food, and we hope that you enjoy the great food and atmosphere here at Airport Grocery for many years to come!