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Istituto per i Beni Culturali Emilia-Romagna

Memoria e Ricerca

From Niche to Market: Italian-American Entrepreneurs in Providence, Rhode Island

di Stefano Luconi
in Memoria e Ricerca n.s. 18 (2005), p. 21

This essay examines the surfacing and development of Italian-American entrepreneurship in Providence. Besides a number of small businesspeople, spanning from neighborhood retailers to importers of goods from Italy, Providence saw the emergence of Italian-American entrepreneurs whose market could be as wide as the United States, as in the case of Vincenzo Sorrentino’s Uncas Manufacturing Company, one of the largest ring plants nationwide. These latter did not necessarily rely upon ethnic commodities. Conversely, the first businesspeople of Italian ancestry focused on Italian-style products for a niche made up of their fellow ethnics. They also trusted Italian-American consumers’ sense of loyalty to one’s community and its businesspeople However, such entrepreneurs, too, eventually had to broaden their market beyond the boundaries of the Italian-American community, especially in the postwar years, in order to stay in business. Yet they have continued to count on the ethnic flavor of their goods and have even exploited it in order to reach out to consumers belonging to other national groups who are attracted by the exotic appeal of Italy-related products.