Vend-It turns 30 in?Smithfield

SMITHFIELD – Thirty years of providing a place in the village to get a needed grocery item, deli items for unexpected company, a movie for the evening, postage stamps or an ice cream treat have led the folks of Smithfield to think of Vend-It, a Main Street establishment, as a miniature general store.

John Domenick, owner with his wife, Martha, said the price was right when they first moved back to Smithfield to buy the former First National Bank building and the adjoining building that housed such things as the M&K Grocery Store, Smithfield post office, a fruit market and church.

His first business venture was with his brother-in-law, Frank Rotella, and his nephew, Frank Rotella Jr. They changed the appearance of the bank building and started a “Your Father’s Moustache” hair salon in 1976. It is still going strong and operating as “Just Hair” now.

In 1982, the trio started a business in the adjoining, smaller structure that once was a grocery store, post office and church. They sold wholesale snacks to baseball, football and other concessions but it seemed when customers came in they asked for coffee and a sandwich or slice of pizza, too. This prompted the installation of vending machines for that purpose, and from that came the name, Vend-It.

“Our hours were 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. five days a week, but customers started coming in anytime from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so we changed the hours to 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

Food and merchandise are now prepared and checked out by a friendly employee, or the, but the Vend-It name is here to stay.

“We are a little niche in Smithfield that basically remains the same. You won’t get rich in a small town, but we take pride in our work and the people here. You can’t change the world, but you can try to change your own little corner of it,” Domenick said.

“We are seeing the third generation of kids coming into the store for ice cream now,” Domenick said. “Our candy that sold for a penny was a big attraction to the children, but in 2007, it had to be raised to 2 cents each. I think we are the only business in America where you can still get a 25-cent bag of chips and a 25-cent can of pop,” he related.

The store carries a small amount of canned goods and condiments, all types of luncheon meats and cheeses, various drinks, some baked goods, movie rentals, an array of ice cream flavors and milkshakes, slushies, postage stamps and money orders, lottery tickets, any kind of candy bar and gum. Sandwiches can be prepared on demand, and customers can always buy a card for birthday or holiday gifts.

John always has fundraising tickets on the counter that a hometown organization is selling and is a big supporter of any organization around the confines of Smithfield.

“We have met many great people in our business and are hopeful that we have a service here that people need. We are like a little general store,” Domenick concluded.