ISHPEMING, Mich. (WJMN) – After it was announced earlier this week that John and Jean Korhonen were looking to sell Mama Russo’s Homemade Product and Catering in Ishpeming, they said it’s important to understand someone won’t be purchasing just a business.

“We’d like to keep doing this forever but we know that’s not possible. So we’d like to find somebody with the same passion, the same drive, The same willingness to keep our traditions going. Keep our recipes the same. Keep our service the same. Keep everything the way we started it. When we do, it’s retirement without question,” said John Korhonen.

John Korhonen started working in a grocery store when he was 8 years old. That store was located where Campfire Coffee is currently in business.

“I was working in the produce department, bagging potatoes, things like that. The next year, we built the new store at the time in the central part of Negaunee. I stayed and worked and became part owner. My wife and I became sole owners in 1992. We’ve had it ever since,” added Korhonen.

“My wife Jean and I operated the downtown store for many years. In 1998, we saw the opportunity to move to the highway. We designed and built the grocery store that is now known as Super One. We operated for three years. After three years in 2001, we sold that business off to Super One. Then we started up Mama Russo’s. We thought that was a good concept. We were excited about it. We thought there was a need in the community. We wanted to stay in the community. We thought it was the perfect opportunity,” said Korhonen.

John Korhonen said the business is personal to he and his wife. They work side by side every day.

“I get asked that question a lot. How do you work with your wife every day. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s been special. I love being with her. She’s very energetic. She’s very knowledgable. She’s very much into the business. Whether it was in the grocery store or in Mama Russo’s. It’s been just a great experience for us,” said John Korhonen.

He said while providing quality catering and products has been rewarding, it’s the people that have made the business a success.

“When we know we did a good job when we went beyond what they expected. When you see the bride in the middle of their reception. Busiest night of their lives. To take time out, come back into the kitchen where Jean and I are and give us a hug, that is really special.” Korhonen continued, “The community has always given us a sense of accomplishment. They’ve always been supportive of us. Whether it’s our retailers. Many many retailers go out of their way to support local business and u.p. made products. That’s really helpful. The people in the community buy our products, not only because they like them but because they want to support local business.

A picture of the original Russo brothers hangs inside the entrance to Mama Russo’s facility in Ishpeming.

As John and Jean Korhonen prepare for retirement, they want to assure people, it will remain business as ususal at Mama Russo’s.

“I think the biggest questions we get are, Are the recipes going to be the same? Who’s going to do our things? Who’s going to do our weddings? Who’s going to make that chicken. Things like that. I keep telling them, nothings changing. The only thing that’s going to change is just Jean and I moving on. But the business and recipes, and service will keep going on.”