Something extremely tragic happened yesterday. My dear friend, Ronnie Maceo, owner of Maceo Spice & Imports, proud keeper of a family history many misunderstood but even more of us revered, a bona fide Island legend, a phenomenal cook, stellar businessman, charming people person, and recently a happy grandfather to an adorable baby girl passed away as a result of injuries from a car crash. He will be missed by many including myself.
I don’t have the right words to express my grief, my gratitude for his friendship, advice, and delicious food, or to properly write the kind of tribute Ronnie deserves. I know that for many of us, our good memories of Ronnie are a comfort right now, and I’m lucky that my bank of memories of him is rich. He is mentioned often on this blog and for that I am grateful. I even quoted things he said, because he had a wonderful sense of humor. He once joked about putting Holly the dog in the deep frier – all while feeding me delicious very lightly fried oysters. Holly, unharmed, and happily intoxicated with the scent of so much delicious food, was meanwhile waiting anxiously to see if we might drop even a tiny savory morsel.
Today I went through my phone looking for pictures of Ronnie. I have a few nice ones, but mostly I have images of the food he loved making. He loved it too that I took pictures of it. But mostly he loved how much I enjoyed eating it.
Ronnie took pride in his business and he was excellent at providing an unforgettable experience. Besides our mutual love of food, and our love for Galveston Island and its history, some of my best and most inspiring conversations with Ronnie were about how to succeed in business. He encouraged and advised me. He even gave me the idea of doing walking tours in addition to selling art and books, urged me to act on this idea post haste, and was so happy when I did. I know that I will miss Ronnie often and in many different ways. I will miss laughing with him and eating his amazing food. But I will also always miss him whenever something good happens for my business. When I close an important sale or when I have a special group of people on one of my tours, I will want to tell Ronnie. Because Ronnie would be genuinely happy for me. And that’s what being a true friend is about.
Here are some pictures. And since words fail me today, here’s a blog post I wrote eight years ago about Ronnie’s shop.
Maceo Spice – Or Why Port Towns hare Different
(Published originally on my blog in 2014)
“Can you paint the smell?” Ronnie asks. Behind him, the spices are lined up on racks, in little jars labeled carefully, but which fail to contain their alluring fragrance. I’m perched up on a red vinyl barstool, talking to one of the most charming people I know, and having just devoured a sandwich bigger and juicier, than one might think a person my size would be able to wolf down. I blame the scent of spices for my lack of restraint, that and the delicious olive salad Ronnie uses for his legendary muffalettas. Then of course, there’s always the desire to linger in a place like this. Visiting with Ronnie is a great pleasure for all of us who know him. And sitting in his spice store, being seduced by imported delicacies from all around the world, has a very special island charm to it. This is a place where you truly get a sense of what Galveston really is. You feel its past, and its history in the very presence of Ronnie Maceo, carrying on a family business that has become an island legend. The pictures on the walls, the mementos, and the family recipes, bridge a time gap, to different generations of Maceos, who came here from another one of my favorite islands, Sicily, bringing with them a flair for food that lives on in many little details that in this very special shop are never left to chance. Space too, along with time, has an elasticity of its own at Maceo’s. If you truly want to feel that you are in a port town, and that the world is at your fingertips, this is the place to start.
There are so many different faces to this town. You might think that it’s small, but its constant traffic of cruise ships, giant cargo ships, shrimp boats, ferries, cars, trailers, and motorcycles bringing giddy tourists, and a vast array of artsy drifters, gives Galveston a whole different dimension, bringing the world, in all its colorful excitement, to our small island. No-where is the world more present than here, at Maceo’s, where Ronnie will surprise you with delicious imports, and offer to order whatever foodstuffs you might be craving, from whatever places might have stolen your heart. Here, too, your path will cross those of your fellow travelers. These might be people driving down from Houston for the fabulous muffalettas, islanders coming in for the special long spaghetti, wrapped in blue paper, or the family recipe pasta gravy, or the captain of one of the giant ships docked just down the road, stocking up on his favorite Bosnian coffee. After you sit, soak up the fragrance of the spices, eat something totally delicious, and buy a few worldly delicacies to carry out in a white paper bag that will smell of the store and its fragrant wares, you might be tempted to take a nice long walk through the Strand district. Chances are, after a good lunch, you might just need that walk. And I find, that after a visit to Maceo’s, you see downtown, and the ships docked nearby, the oil-rigs even, on the other side of the bay, with a whole different sense of just how close the whole world is to you, a renewed sense of appreciation and wonder at the colorful surprises lurking around the corner, or on a store shelf, in a port town