The goodness of candy and the love of family

The Fabiano legacy on a downtown Holland building

The Fabiano legacy on a downtown Holland building

Kamryn Dumas

  For over 120 years and six generations, the Fabiano family has delighted locals and tourists alike with their Holland Peanut Store. The family-owned candy store, located on 8th street, has solidified itself as a Holland staple. The Peanut Store continues to find success thanks to its foundation of strong family bonds. 

   The Fabiano family business took flight in 1902. After immigrating from Italy, Joe Fabiano (first generation) opened a fruit and confectionary store downtown Holland. Soon after, the shop morphed into a soda fountain and local hangout. Later, their business became what is now the “Holland Peanut Store”. 

   Tom Fabiano (fourth generation), Mary Fabiano-Stille (fourth generation), and Sarah Porebski (fifth generation) currently share ownership of the store. Despite the challenges and uncertainty that often come with owning a small business, the Peanut Store manages to thrive. Customers genuinely love the product, but many come back to the store solely because they love the Fabiano family. 

   “We’re Italian Catholic. We wear our emotions on our sleeves. We’re not introverts, we’re extroverts. A lot of touchy-feely,” Tom Fabiano said. 

   For decades, only members of the Fabiano family worked in the store. The Fabianos began hiring high school and college students in the 90’s. Although these employees don’t belong to the Fabiano bloodline, they’re welcomed into the family, nonetheless. These relationships maintain the family-centric environment within the store. Need a quote here from an employee

   The Fabiano family builds relationships with their employees’ through effective and genuine communication. Communication is an important aspect of any family unit. It promotes better understanding, conflict resolution, and support. Communication builds trusting relationships, essential in a workplace. 

  Every week, Tom Fabiano takes the time to sit down with his employees and collaborate on a work schedule. Tom Fabiano said, “‘Most places, they put the schedule up on a bulletin board and say ‘There you go.’ We say, ‘Come here, sit down’. And then I go through the week. ‘What can you help me with?’” This comradery intertwines with the Fabiano core values. In order of importance, the family believes in God, family, school, and school activities. Tom Fabiano makes sure his employees can fully invest in other areas of their life before work. “We’re demanding when you’re here, because we are a busy store, but we understand that there’s more to life than selling candy,” said Tom Fabiano. 

  The Fabianos invest in their employees’ lives and hope for the best. “We cry with them. We cheer with them in sports. We cheer for them when they’re in a relationship. We cry with them when the relationship’s broken up,” Tom Fabiano said. As a result, the Fabiano-employee bonds create a Peanut Store family. 

   These bonds last a lifetime. As the Peanut Store family tree grows, moments in the store imitate a family reunion. “We’ve hired a couple of girls from West Ottawa that, to this day, will come in with their three or four kids. Or they’re moving their kids into Hope this year and they’ll come in and see us. A young lady, goes to NYU, and she came in to see us the other day,” Tom Fabiano said. “Even though you don’t work for us, you still come in and make it a point.” 

   Much like the Fabiano family, the Peanut Store family has become generational. Tom Fabiano said, “We have two young ladies, one graduated from Holland high in ‘99 and one graduated from holland high in ‘02 and they have kids. One lives in Elkhart, Indiana and one lives in Portage, Michigan. Their parents still live here. They come in every time they’re in town. I now know their kids.” 

   The Fabianos welcome customers into their family, too. “We greet people with a, ‘Hello, how you doing? If you need anything, let us know, otherwise enjoy looking around.’ We take good care of ‘em.” Paul and Esther Fabiano (third generation) taught their children, the current owners, the value of forming relationships and following the golden rule. The outcome isn’t surprising. “We know 50% of our customers by their first name,” Celeste Porebski-Fabiano (fourth generation) said. 

   By opening the door for connection, the Fabiano family earns a special place in their customers’ hearts. “Now people come in, I get to know your name. If I see you three years from now, I ask you, ‘How’s college?’ People that come in, ‘How’s your family? Hey wasn’t your daughter all-state in basketball?’ We have conversations. I go to visitations for people’s parents or people’s siblings, because we form relationships here,” said Tom Fabiano. 

   The Fabianos take the time to invest in their customers’ lives and in return, their customers invest in the Peanut Store. “I have people who come in and don’t spend anything, and while I’m roasting or my sister’s making candy, they sit on the stool and chat with us for 10-15 minutes. But yet, our sales have progressed every year. 2022 was our best year ever in sales,” said Tom Fabiano. 

   Tom Fabiano admits that, like any family, the Peanut Store family isn’t perfect. He said, “Don’t get me wrong, there’s days where people come in and scoop the candy with their hands, because we do all the scooping, and then we correct ‘em. And me included, my staff included, we have maybe not what we said but how we said it. It could’ve been a bark. So we’re far from perfect. We’ve made our mistakes.” 

   But still, family forgives and continues to love. Customers return again and again. The Peanut Store remains a family gathering. They’ll continue to serve the goodness of candy and the love of family for generations to come.