Ice Cream, Fruit, and Oysters: It’s Dughi’s, Of Course!

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In our series “Raleigh Reframed,” North Carolina historian Ian F.G. Dunn will provide and contextualize a historic photo of Raleigh every week. This week, as grocery stores continue to announce their arrival in and around downtown Raleigh, we take a look at one of downtown’s earliest grocers, Dughi’s.  

Walking into Dughi’s at 235 Fayetteville Street more than a century ago would have been a lot to take in.

Fruit would have been hanging from the ceiling. Produce, seafood, cigars, and confections would have created that earthy-sweet smell of a country produce stand. And watching over it all would have been the store parrot, which, according to family lore, was laid to rest in front of 618 Glenwood Avenue, the present day location of the parking lot at burger joint Mojoe’s.

Interior of the Dughi Store/PhC.166.3, from The Dughi Photograph Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, NC.

Interior of the Dughi Store/PhC.166.3, from The Dughi Photograph Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, N.C.

Antonio Dughi, the proprietor of A. Dughi’s, was indeed a lover of parrots. At one point, he even sold them in his store, which stood at the present-day location of First Citizens Bank on Fayetteville Street. Dughi immigrated from Italy in 1872 and immediately got to work. After settling in Raleigh around 1885, he ran his successful fruit, novelty ice cream, and oyster business for nearly thirty years.

PhC_166_6  Dughi's exterior. A. Dughi seen standing on far left next to his son, John Dughi. From The Dughi Photograph Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, NC.

Dughi’s exterior. A. Dughi seen standing on far left next to his son, John Dughi/PhC.166.6, from The Dughi Photograph Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, N.C.

Dughi took an active interest in city affairs and enjoyed giving N.C. State students and orphanages tours of his farm, which was located eight miles south of Raleigh. He was well known in the city, too, said to have been quite good at calculating large sums in his head. He was also recognized for his wit.

Indeed, Dughi regularly submitted two-to-three-line classifieds that advertised specials or simply reminded everyone how clever he was. The ads, written by Dughi himself, displayed his unique sense of humor and marketing approach.

In a 1910 ad in the N&O, he wrote, “Don’t ask me what shape of (ice) cream I have. Order what you want. It’s Dughi’s of course.” Four years later, he joked, “WIRE MESSAGE FROM BALTIMORE: A. Dughi, ‘Sell the 600 bunches of bananas at any price, another car load coming’. —A. Banana, Baltimore, MD. This means cheap bananas at Dughi’s today.”

Antonio Leo Dughi in full regalia/PhC.166.1, from The Dughi Photograph Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, N.C.

Antonio Leo Dughi in full regalia/PhC.166.1, from The Dughi Photograph Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, N.C.

After Dughi’s death in 1917, his sons John and Joseph took over the business. The tile mosaic once found at the entrance of Dughi’s is now located at the family’s burial plot in Oakwood Cemetery.

Ian F.G. Dunn is an assistant archivist with the Audio Visual Materials Unit at the State Archives of North Carolina. He posts historical photographs on Instagram as @olderaleigh and @nc_archives_photos.

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