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Your Tewksbury Today

People You Know: Margie & Brad Cerullo, Owners Of Discount Madness

Sep 21, 2015 07:14AM ● By Hollie Gonzalez

Margie Cerullo and her son Brad are owners of Discount Madness on Route 38.

Most people know her by her voice.  Margie Cerullo.  There is no mistaking it when you hear this mix of loud and sweet, forceful yet kind voice coming from her tiny frame.  Whether it is in the aisles of Market Basket, or behind the counter at her store.  Margie Cerullo is the owner of Discount Madness, or as most people from Tewksbury remember it, "Preferred Distributors."  
The Cerullo family have been fixtures here in town for as long as I can remember.  Arthur and Margie Cerullo have been here for 38 years.  Not only have they grown their business, but they have grown a family, with roots deeply seeded to the town of Tewksbury.  I was able to sit down with Margie and her son Brad to talk about Discount Madness, Tewksbury and family.
Hollie Gonzalez - Where are you originally from?
Margie Cerullo - I was brought up in Cambridge when I was younger.  I have been here in Tewksbury for the past 38 years.  I was originally a hairdresser.
HG - Tell me about your family.
MC - I am married to my husband Arthur.  We met at Filenes Basement in Boston.  We have been married for 42 years, but lovingly really 51 years.  We have three boys.  Artie Jr., Mark, and Brad.
HG - How did the concept of starting your store come about?
Brad Cerullo - My father started selling clothes out of the back of his car when he was younger.  Then he had a wholesale company in Woburn pre 1975.  He always wanted to be an owner, someone who was self-employed.  He loved the idea of working for himself and setting his own rules and hours.  My parents opened Preferred Distributors in Tewksbury in 1979.  It was his idea to be able to compete with the big box stores, but at affordable prices for the every day shopper.
HG - Are all the stores family operated and where are they located?
MC - Our baby, or home base is the Tewksbury store at 1325 Main Street, and we have a second store at 44 Bridge Street in Pelham, New Hampshire.  Our family works in the stores.  Brad goes back and forth between the two stores as needed.  He is the General Manager.  He does a little bit of everything. 
HG - Do you have any plans to open up any more Discount Madness locations?
BC - Right now we do not, but that can never be ruled out down the line.
HG - I am very curious to know why you changed the name from Preferred Distributors to Discount Madness?
MC - Preferred was the name of the wholesale store in Woburn.  When we started doing retail, my husband felt like the name didn't really mesh well.
BC - Plus my father also hated being called the "junk store" or the "yellow building", so we started coming up with ideas that would suit all our needs.  My brother Artie was the one who came up the name Discount Madness 6 years ago. 
HG - A lot of people in Tewksbury still refer to you as Preferred Distributors even thought the name has changed.  Why do you think?
MC - (laughs) because that is how we became part of this community.  That is how people know us.  We are a local favorite and have very loyal customers.
BC - Some places won't even let us order a lunch delivery unless we say Preferred Distributors.  It means a lot to our family.
HG - You are the original version of say a "Big Lots", or "Ocean State Job Lots", How do you compete with them and what are your thoughts on them?
MC - I feel like they shouldn't have opened in town.  It was hard for us.  It is so close and it really upset me.  They are a big corporation and a lot of small businesses got hurt by them opening in Tewksbury.
BC - My biggest problem with them is that they are a giant corporation and they have a lot of money for advertising and they are able to buy a lot more overstock then we are able to.  But if you compare dollars to doughnuts, we are still cheaper and have a better variety of things.
HG - Speaking of variety, what are some of the things that you offer especially versus, say The Dollar Store?
BC - Well, our biggest things are definitely the outdoor things such as plants, flowers and mulch.  We are also know for our huge curtain section.  We offer a good size men's and women's section of Red Sox and Patriots apparel.  Lately, our biggest and best seller is absolutely our coffee section.  We have tons and tons of coffee pod flavors.  There are so many varieties.  You can mix and match anything from coffee, to teas, and hot chocolates.   ( side note, I checked this out and believe me, the aisle of these pods is incredible, there are tastes for every pallet.  I bought some caramel apple, and pumpkin spice, but the choices were endless )
HG - What do you attribute your longevity to here in Tewksbury?
MC - Our loyal customers hands down.  Our customers love us and we love them.
BC - We have customers who just come in to visit us and say hi.  It is the community that has kept us going all these years.  
HG - If you could change one thing about Tewksbury, what would it be?
MC - They way they treat business owners.  I wish that the town would make it easier for businesses to operate and exist.
HG - Tell me about your relationship to Alex's Lemonade Stand?
BC - I had been wanting for some time now to get my kids and family involved in giving back to the community.  One day I was in Toys R' Us with my son Eric who is 8 and daughter Lily who is 7, and saw a poster for Alex's Lemonade Stand.  My daughter asked me what it was all about and I had no idea.  So I looked it up.  I realized that this is what I had been looking for.  It was such a wonderful story and really made me think how precious our kids are.  I brought the idea up to my mother and she ran with it.
MC - We held the stand here twice so far.  I went to every business, broken foot and all, along Main Street here in town.  I was able to get some great donations from a lot if businesses here such as Perfectos, and a full years membership to Tewksbury Sports Club!  Every one was willing to donate for the raffle and 100% of the proceeds go right to Alex's Lemonade Stand.  We have raised over $4000.00 and look forward to being able to give even more next year.
BC - It is amazing to see what you can do for this organization.  It feels good to see my family and kids involved with such a great thing. 
HG - What is something you think people should know about you and your business that we might not know?
MC - That we take a great sense of pride for our stores and this town.  Tewksbury is our home and it means a lot to be able to run a business here.  I get emotionally upset if one of our customers is unhappy or upset in any way.  This store, this town, they are a part of me.
HG - What do you think Tewksbury is missing?
BC - I miss the drive in movie theater that used to be here. 
MC - Oh yeah, me too.  That would be nice to be able to go there with the grandkids!
HG - Margie, what advise would you give to anyone who is trying to open a business here in Tewksbury?
MC - Do everything you are supposed to, and do it right.  Stick to your business idea and always, no matter what, treat your customers and vendors with respect.
I really enjoyed my conversation with Margie and Brad.  You can really feel how much they care for their business and what their family puts into it.  I was telling my mother that I was going to interview Margie, and she says, "oh, she is the nicest person you can ever meet."  I said to her, "I didn't know you knew her?"
My mother told me a story about how when I was younger, she brought me to dance class somewhere over in that area.  I must have been about 6 or 7.  My mother went to walk around "Preferred" while I was at class.  When it was time for her to leave to come and pick me up, I guess her car wouldn't start.  She was hysterical that she wasn't going to be able to come and get me and it was getting dark.  (keep in mind, this was pre- cell phone big bang)  Margie came out of the store and saw how upset my mother was and not even really knowing her, offered to drive her to go and get me at dance class.  They picked me up and Margie took us all the way home.  When I asked Margie about this, she said she remembered it and remembered my mother and would do it all over again.
Those are the people we should be proud of here in Tewksbury. 
Quick 5 - Margie Cerullo
I collect - Cows 
Broccoli or Cauliflower - Broccoli
President you would like to have met - George H. W. Bush, Senior
Last Movie you watched - Disney's Descendants with my granddaughter Lily 
I wish I could cook a meal for which celebrity - Kenny Rogers
( Hollie Gonzalez lives in Tewksbury with her husband and two children.  She is very passionate about her town. )
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