Have you ever wondered how the Angelo Bruno Business Library got its name?
The late Angelo Bruno, who was Chairman of the Board of Bruno’s, Inc., has been described as a quiet, shy man who enjoyed life, loved his family, and was proud of his family’s achievements. For years he worked with his brothers building a supermarket empire that is today by far the largest chain in Alabama.
One of the eight children of Vincent and Maria Theresa Costa Bruno, Angelo J. Bruno was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on May 29, 1924. His parents had come to America from Sicily in 1909 to pursue their dreams of a better life.
When Angelo Bruno was seven years old, his oldest brother Joe (then 19 years old) used the family savings-$600-to purchase a grocery store on the corner of Eighth Avenue North and Tenth Street in Birmingham. (The 20′ by 40′ store would fit inside a modern meat cooler.) Joe and Sam (the two oldest of the brothers) quit their jobs and moved the family into the small living quarters next to the store.
Though Joe Bruno was considered “head of the family,” the whole family participated in various capacities in operating the store. Angelo, as one of the four youngest of the six brothers, distributed handbills after school. The store offered no credit, as did most small grocery stores at the time. But because Bruno’s bought in volume, it offered an abundance and variety of quality goods at low prices. Buying in volume and selling at advertised low prices for quality goods became two factors in the growth of the Bruno stores.
Angelo Bruno continued to work in the family business throughout his school years. In effect, he learned the grocery business from the ground up.
During World War II, Angelo Bruno served in the Armed Forces in the Pacific until 1946 when he returned home and joined the rapidly expanding family business.
Angelo Bruno has been called a quieter version of his oldest brother Joe Bruno (who remains Chairman Emeritus of Bruno’s, Inc. and the Big B drug store chain). Angelo Bruno certainly shared Joe Bruno’s philosophy that “You can’t stand still, and you can never stop dreaming,” and that success comes only from “a lot of hard work.”
When Bruno’s incorporated in 1959, Angelo Bruno was named Executive Vice President. In 1977, he became President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). By 1985, he had been elected Chairman of the Board and CEO. In 1990, he remained Chairman of the Board and his son Ronald assumed the position of CEO.
When Angelo Bruno became CEO in 1977, the company’s sales were $230 million. By 1989, sales had exceeded $2 billion. By 1991, sales were approaching $3 billion.
In 1971, when Angelo Bruno was Vice President, the company went public with its first stock offering. Since that time, there have been six two-for-one stock splits. One share of Bruno’s stock purchased in 1971 for under $15 was worth 64 shares ($900) by 1990 when Angelo Bruno became Chairman of the Board.
During his tenure as CEO, the company expanded to over 230 stores in the Southeastern states. The company continued to anticipate and meet the changing needs of customers through diverse divisions of the company.
By 1991, when Angelo Bruno was Chairman of the Board, the company store formats included Food World, Bruno’s Food and Pharmacy, Food Max, Piggly Wiggly Stores in Southern Georgia, Food Fare and Vincent’s Market.
Angelo Bruno had a genuine concern for others and a deep religious faith. (He was an active member of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.) During his lifetime, he shared his good fortune to improve the quality of life for others. For example, he (with his brothers) made possible the establishment of the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham.
And in 1991, Angelo, his wife Ann, and their 5 children gave $4 million dollars to The University of Alabama to help fund a new business library and computer center on the campus at Tuscaloosa. The gift was at that time the largest gift that the University had ever received from a living donor and was the lead gift in a $40 million campaign for improvement of the Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration and its facilities at the Capstone.
UA’s President, Dr. Roger Sayers said about the generous contribution, “It is fitting that one of the most successful, ‘home-grown’ business enterprises in the state … and the state’s oldest and most comprehensive business school … should join in addressing the needs of Alabama’s business leaders of tomorrow.”
Angelo Bruno’s statement about the generous gift is indicative of the type person he was. He said simply, “We are very glad to have the opportunity to make a gift to the University in appreciation for the fine quality education our family has received.”
On December 11, 1991, Angelo Bruno’s life ended unexpectedly and tragically when the corporate jet crashed in Georgia, killing all on board, including the corporate pilots. Angelo Bruno; his brother (Vice Chairman of the Board and Senior Vice President) and other executives were making the traditional holiday visits to Bruno stores throughout the Southeast.
As stated in Bruno’s, Inc.’s memorial for those lost in the crash:
“This is a sad occasion for our company, our city and our state.
“We have lost some wonderful people who have made a tremendous difference in our lives personally and professionally by the way they lived their lives.
“Lee and Angelo Bruno were among the founders of our company. Their success in business was matched by their generosity to their community.”
The memory of Angelo Bruno, a man of quiet dignity known for his spirit of sharing and helping others, will remain in the hearts of many.
At the Capstone, the building which houses the Bruno Business Library and a computer center is a “living” monument in recognition of Angelo Bruno’s lifetime achievements and contributions to his fellow man.
Written in 1994.
Contributed by the Office of Development, Alumni & Corporate Relations, Culverhouse College of Commerce.