comments

Year-round market a Roseville fixture

Denio’s still going strong after 62 years
By: Megan Wood The Press-Tribune
-A +A
It all started with a single fruit stand. In 1947, Jim and Marilee Denio were well versed in the ways of entrepreneurs and saw potential in a produce stand across from the livestock auction that attracted people every Saturday. Interest grew in the Denios’ produce stand and the couple began renting space to interested parties who began setting up stalls of their own selling anything from used clothing to trinkets. “Dad started selling livestock at the auction because they needed an auctioneer,” said Ken Denio, son of Jim and Marilee and current owner of Denio’s. “At the end of the day, he would also auction off the unsold inventory from the booths on the corner if they wanted him to.” Eventually the Denios gained ownership of the auction and continued to sell livestock, furniture, household items and on one occasion, a box of dentures. “Grandad opened a box full of used dentures and pretty soon all these old ladies were trying them on to see what fit,” said Eric Denio, a third-generation manager who has been working for the swap meet since childhood. “Believe it or not he sold that entire box.” Through the 1960s, Denio’s continued to grow in size and quickly became known throughout California as the largest farmers’ market, auction and swap meet. “At the time we were so busy because we were only open on Saturdays,” Ken Denio said. “The area as a whole was busy too just because of the livestock so we decided to add Sundays.” Some would even say Denio’s is world famous. Several years ago on a family vacation to China, Jim Denio was standing on the Great Wall when he overheard a conversation about the swap meet. On another occasion in Brazil, a tour guide asked where everyone was from. Upon replying they were from Roseville, Jim and Marilee were accosted by several other couples who asked “isn’t that where that big farmers’ market is?” By the mid 1970s, the farmers’ market and swap meet had grown so much, the Denios decided to stop running the auction and focus entirely on the open-air market. Now open year-round, Fridays through Sundays on a sprawling 70 acres, Denio’s provides a perfect location for small retailers to get their chops in the business world. “We’ve really become an incubator for small businesses,” said Tracie Denio, daughter of Ken Denio and third-generation manager. “Pottery World got their start here. ” Adam Karapetyan said he owes all of his knowledge of the retail business to his 13 years at Denio’s. Selling leather goods at a stall at Denio’s, Karapetyan says it was this “modest beginning” that he needed to set the foundation to open a large retail store on his own four years ago. “This gave me the opportunity to learn business with regular customers and the courage to step out and do it on my own,” said Karapetyan who is now the owner of Bikerwear USA in Folsom. Having been around for 62 years, it’s not uncommon that many of the vendors have a familial relationship with each other, the management and their customers. “It’s really neat to see people that I was kids with taking over the family business,” Tracie Denio said. “And then on the other hand, you have the same people running them that have been here for as I’ve been alive.” Nick and Milly Stasuc opened their fruit and vegetable stands more than 23 years ago and have yet to miss a weekend at Denio’s. “We’re number one that’s how long we’ve been here,” Milly Stasuc said. “Many years, good years.” Their son Vlad, now a UC Davis alum, has been a regular behind the booth hawking apples and oranges on weekends since he was 9 years old. Coming home from college on the weekends to help with his parents’ business, Vlad considered Denio’s his second home. Doug Williams of Marysville has been coming to Denio’s since he was a child and now regularly brings his own children. “There are good bargains and stands that we always go see,” Williams said. “My wife likes the farmers’ market for the produce. It’s always cheaper than the grocery stores.” And that’s no understatement. The Stasuc’s produce stands provide several different varieties of apples and oranges in addition to peppers, eggplant and other vegetables at a fraction of the price of major grocery store chains. The farmers’ market section of Denio’s is a staple for the bazaar and receives a majority of the foot traffic, which keeps many of the vendors busy selling and visiting with customers. “We wouldn’t leave, we are treated well and love all of our customers,” Sasuc said. “We will retire from here.” Jim Denio saw his tiny fruit stand on a corner blossom into the massive, prominent open market that is a Roseville icon today. Passed down through three generations, with the fourth just starting, Denio’s has seen its share of changes. “Things grow and change and we may be bigger,” Ken Denio said. “But the heart and soul of that one fruit stand is still here.”