Wholey’s celebrates 100 years of serving community

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Coming to work every day, doing better each day than the day before, hiring good staff and providing good customer service is how Daniel M. Wholey explained his 40-year career with the family business. As a kid, he was not interested in working in the business. Today, serving as ecommerce director, he and his brothers Bob, Matt, Sam and Jim are carrying on the family tradition.

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CELEBRATING WITH FAMILY—Mayor Luke Ravenstahl joins the Wholey Family after presenting them with the proclamation and the street sign. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

The weekend of Sept. 21-23, the business Robert Wholey’s and Company, Inc. and the family celebrated their 100-year anniversary. A century of following their mission to create happy customers by selling the freshest products at the best prices in a friendly, fun atmosphere has been their formula to success. Wholey says he is proud of the formula and vows to continue with a dedication to serve their customers’ needs.

While presenting the Wholey family with a proclamation, Mayor Luke Ravensthal classified the business as a staple and tradition in the community. He also presented the family with an honorary street sign for 17th street to be called Wholey Way.

Grateful to the community for their continued support throughout the years, Wholey said he is proud of the fact that they have been around so long and are able to contribute back to the community. One of their biggest contributions is the amount of people they have been able to provide employment for. He calculates that thousands of people have worked at Wholey’s since his grandfather established it in McKees Rocks, including African-Americans. One of his special projects has been hiring youth from area high schools. “It means a lot to the community when people can start their careers here,” he pointed out.

An employee for 17 years, 77-year-old Ernest Woods, is one such worker that has benefited from employment at Wholey’s.

“Working here has been a great opportunity,” he said. “They have done what they can to help me throughout the years.” Considered by Wholey as their “official good will ambassador,” Woods says he started working by request of Robert C. Wholey.

“I was a Jitney and Mr. Wholey asked that I manage the parking lot. Now I am their all-around guy,” Woods said.

As their ambassador, Woods enthusiastically said, “I greet people, run errands and help out where necessary. This job is like my peace and progress.” An Alabama native and father of two adult sons, Woods retired from the University of Pittsburgh as a field supervisor in the maintenance department in 1982.

The Children’s Institute based in Squirrel Hill has also benefited from the generosity of Wholey’s. All money placed in Rachael the Pig, a large piggy bank located at the exit of the store is donated to the organization. Contributions are matched by the store. More than $3,200 has been donated.

The Children’s Institute carrying the tag line “Amazing Kids, Amazing Place” is based in Squirrel Hill. Its mission is to improve the quality of life for children, young people and their families by providing a specialized continuum of services that enables them to reach their potential.

Known worldwide, many people travel to the area for the Wholey experience. They stop by to enjoy their famous fish sandwich or to sample their fresh seafood, meats or produce. The locals adore the ambiance and in addition to partaking in the noted products they use the facility as a grocery store, which Dan says developed by default.

Wholey’s was established in McKees Rocks selling live poultry, meats, sausages and coffees by Robert Leo Wholey in 1912. In 1946, after the establishment survived the Great Depression and the McKees Rocks flood of 1936, his son, Robert C. “Bob” took over the business. In 1951 he moved to a stand inside the Diamond Market in Market Square and in 1959 relocated to its current location at 1711 Penn Ave.

Throughout the years Wholey’s has transformed from retail to importing fresh and frozen seafood from around the world, to adding a fleet of trucks enabling them to make deliveries directly to the doors of their customers. In the 80s decade they purchased another building at 1501 Penn Avenue, the Federal Cold Storage building and became a frozen storage facility which housed the wholesale division, and became the company headquarters for their New Federal Cold Storage business.

In the late 80s Bob created the Wholey International division that packed and distributed products under the Wholey label worldwide. A state-of-the art cold storage facility was built in Cranberry Township in 1997 that expanded its cold storage business.

In the late 1990’s after the passing of their father, the sons took over bringing the business into the technology age by adding an online presence. They also opened a processing plant in British Columbia giving the capabilities to process 200,000 pounds of whiting daily.

Since 2000, Wholey’s focus has returned to its roots. Equipment and the 1711 Penn Avenue facility has been updated, and the cold storage and other businesses have been sold. Now they hold onto their traditional values of selling the freshest products at the best prices. Proud of being a part of the community for 100 years, Dan says, “We look forward to another 100 years.”

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