PORTLAND — Paul Trusiani, who founded Paul’s Food Center on Congress Street and ran the grocery for 40 years, died Saturday of complications from heart surgery. He was 81.

Paul’s, located at 585 Congress St., is an institution in the city’s West End. Trusiani opened the store in 1975 and had worked there nearly every day since.

Trusiani was remembered Tuesday as a hard-working businessman who sold quality products at fair prices. Many said he was also a dedicated community leader who quietly helped needy residents.

“He loved that it wasn’t work for him,” said his son Jim Trusiani, who has worked at the store throughout the years. “He loved not just the work, but his employees, the customers and the community. He wouldn’t talk about the nice things he did for his customers. He was so good to so many people.”

Paul’s Foods, located in a high-traffic area next to Congress Square Park, has roughly five aisles packed with food that customers could easily find in larger stores like Hannaford and Shaw’s supermarkets. On Tuesday afternoon, the store saw a steady stream of customers, some of whom lingered outside. Many regulars said they were surprised to hear Trusiani had died and concerned about the fate of the popular store.

Hafid Lalaoui of Cumberland Avenue said he has been shopping there for six or seven years.

“He was a great guy,” Lalaoui said. “He kept this store for us. It’s the only place we have. I don’t have a car. He was everything here.”

Mark Cole, who lives on Congress Street, said Trusiani went out of his way to provide customers with products they requested.

“Everything I ever asked for, he got it right in,” Cole said. “He didn’t hesitate. He was right on the ball. I thoroughly love having his store here. If we don’t, where are we going to go? He’s been here a long time. He has to stay open.”

Trusiani spent nearly his entire working life in the grocery business. As a child in Brunswick, he worked behind a soda fountain at a local drugstore. In 1952, at the age of 18, he moved to Portland and worked as an apprentice meat cutter for First National Stores before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1953 and serving for two years. Following his discharge, he earned his degree at Portland University, now the University of Southern Maine. Trusiani later went on to earn an MBA at the university and remained involved with USM for many years, teaching graduate courses and serving as the president of the alumni board.

In his early years, Trusiani worked for Hannaford Brothers Co. as a buyer, retail counselor and head of procurement. He went on to work as vice president and general manager of Martin’s Foods before deciding to establish his own company, Paul’s Food Center. He operated the business with his former wife, Annamarie Ross Trusiani. The partners have 12 to 15 full and part-time employees.

Their son, Jim Trusiani, said the family has no plans to sell or close the business.

“The family’s intent is to continue to run the store the way Dad did,” his son said.

Trusiani was a past president of the Falmouth Lions Club and a board member with Associated Grocers of Maine. He was also active in Portland’s Downtown District and in recent years was involved with the group Friends of Congress Square Park.

“He was very well thought of in this community among his friends and family,” said Susan Neufeld Trusiani, his wife for 31 years. “He wasn’t a man of many words, but I think people had great respect for him and his opinions. He really cared about the city of Portland and he worked very hard to make it a better place.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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