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Community Builders: Charles Modica Jr.

Posted on Jul 01, 2015 in Modica Market , Charles Modica Jr. , July-August 2015

Charles Modica Jr.

Carrying on a family tradition, Charles Modica Jr. treats customers like family by Jessica Manafi

Nestled in a corner of Seaside’s Central Square since opening in 1989, Modica Market has become a pillar for the picturesque waterfront town.

The family-owned business, originally opened by Charles Modica Sr. and his wife, Sarah, began with a simple deal-sealing handshake between Modica and Seaside founder Robert Davis, and has since flourished into one of the most recognizable businesses along scenic Highway 30A.

However, it’s not just what’s on the shelves of the charming gourmet grocery store that draws both locals and visitors all year to its wide selection of specialty meats and its extensive collection of wines and craft beers.

Charles Modica Jr., co-owner of Modica Market with his sister, Carmel Modica, has transformed one of the town’s first establishments into a hotspot for dining and socializing.

“We have a lot of history in small town neighborhood stores, and what those responsibilities are to those communities,” Modica, whose family previously owned a grocery store in Alabama, said. “Markets like this are kind of unique, not only for food and drink, but also for socializing, for family gatherings, for children having their first jobs.”

Before he passed away in 2010, Modica Sr., who was considered one of the town’s founding fathers, was a recognizable face among community members, known for his bushy white beard and kind, inviting smile.

Despite his father’s influence on the town, Modica said he doesn’t believe he is following in his father’s footsteps but is rather using the tools his father gave him to continue the business in his own way.

“The biggest thing for me is that I miss my father, and I think a lot of people do, too,” he said, “but I don’t think I’ll ever follow in his footsteps. I don’t think I could ever be him or even try to be him. I think he gave me my own path to lead.”

Before becoming an official Modica Market employee, the 53-year-old entrepreneur opened a small food-and-drink shop at the age of 21 with help from Davis.

For seven years, Sip ‘n’ Dip served ice cream, beer and sandwiches on Seaside’s sandy beach. But eventually, Modica had to shut the growing business down.

“It was really exciting being so young and having my own business,” he said. “It was a growth period for me, but eventually my mother had gotten ill, so I needed to help them at the store to establish Modica Market.”

Charles Modica, one of Seaside’s founding fathers, built the first market in town. His son, Charles Jr., now runs the grocery store. Photo courtesy Seaside

When Modica inherited the store, he established his own legacy.

Keeping with the current theme of new urbanism, — an urban design that promotes compact, walkable towns and cities — Modica said he is a major supporter of easy accessibility and community involvement.

Not only does he see his customers as family, Modica encourages his employees to create their own customer bases by maintaining friendly relationships with those who pass through the doors.

Over the years, the business has also become a hub for the local children, who walk to the store after school to enjoy fresh baked cookies and leftover doughnuts from that morning.

“In the very beginning, when there weren’t a lot of businesses here, it was one of those situations where it was an easy walk for the kids to get to our store,” Modica said. “It was an independence for them, and the parents knew they were secure with us being here watching over them.

“The store functions not only for Seaside but for our community as well. People can find a comfort in here knowing that one of the Modicas will be here to greet them as they walk in or say goodbye as they leave.”

When he isn’t running the family business, Modica enjoys what free time he has with his wife,

Julie, and two children, Hayden, 11, and Zoe, 8.

Asked if he plans to open a second establishment, Modica said, for now, he and his family are content remaining in Seaside and maintaining the strength of the current business.

“I have fallen in love with so many people here who are not only my customers but my friends,” Modica said. “As a community, we rely on each other’s strengths, and we are investing in each other.”