YOUNGSTOWN – In 1933, Armando (Herman) Nannicola set out to begin his own business, working from a garage in Warren. More than 85 years later, his legacy has metamorphosed into Nannicola Inc., one of the largest distributors of charitable gaming supplies in the country.
Nannicola founded his company when he started selling Italian cigars to local convenience stores and gas stations. Over the decades, the business evolved and changed its product lines from cigars to toys, novelties, and carnival and party supplies before becoming what it is today: a bingo and charitable gaming distributor.
Initially, he canvassed the area selling his wares. As the business grew, Armando’s son, Frank, joined him in 1959. Frank continued his father’s philosophy of taking the product to the customer, selling items from a company truck in a 70-mile radius of Warren. He was able to maintain the route business and add a full line of carnival supplies. The family fundraising business was born.
Frank shipped and delivered stuffed toys throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. As both the demand and inventory of stuffed animals grew, Frank needed a building larger than his dad’s garage. Thus, Nannicola Wholesale Co.’s first block building was constructed in 1960 on Youngstown Road in Warren.
In 1964, the family purchased a building across the street, which was a fixture in the city for many years. It eventually housed the walk-in retail store that community members frequented for toys and party supplies. As the business grew, so did the building. Renovations in 1975, 1983 and 1995 added an additional 20,000 square feet, giving the wholesale company much-needed space.
Frank passed his penchant for entrepreneurism to his sons, who became integral parts of Nannicola Inc. and other companies the family established over the years.
Charles joined the Nannicola operation in 1991, and his brothers, Armand and Frank II, joined the business in 1992 and 1997, respectively. Together, the brothers focused on charitable gaming. Since then, Nannicola’s sales territory has grown to the eight states in which it holds gaming licenses: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, New York and Illinois. In addition, the company sells products to other suppliers in 30 states, making it one of the largest charitable gaming distributors in the country.
In 1997, Nannicola Inc. moved its operation to its current 70,000-square-foot headquarters on Salt Springs Road in Youngstown.
In 2009, Charles became the third-generation leader of the company when his father, Frank Sr., retired. In this role, Charles has instituted many changes to improve and expand services and retain strength in the marketplace, including the acquisition of 15 other bingo distributors. Today, Nannicola’s more than 20 route salesmen continue to visit customers in the same fashion as Armando did in 1933.
While Frank Sr.’s sons developed and expanded the fundraising and bingo supply business, he continued to operate Nannicola Wholesale Co., which focused on retail party and wholesale carnival supplies until 2008, when the iconic Warren store closed its doors.
Armand and Frank II operate another Nannicola business, Playtronics Games Inc. Founded in 2004, it introduced skill-based games in Ohio.
Pictured: Third-generation owners are brothers Charles Nannicola, president of Nannicola Inc.; Armand Nannicola, president of the company’s Playtronics Games Inc. division; and Frank Nannicola, vice president of Playtronics Games.