In 1908, Joseph Bruno's parents emigrated from Sicily to Birmingham, Alabama, where Bruno's father worked for Republic Steel Company, shoveling the mill furnace for $1.25 a day. Bruno was born in 1912 and had five brothers and two sisters. The Great Depression cost their father his job.
Bruno went to work at age 12 for a neighborhood grocer. In 1931 with $600, Bruno opened his own small grocery store in downtown Birmingham. He was a positive thinker who believed that taking calculated risks led to success in business. He eventually expanded his store into a large grocery and pharmacy chain that included the Piggly Wiggly and Food Fair supermarkets. Those 254 supermarkets along the East Coast employed more than 27,000 people.
In 1971, Bruno took his business public. In 1972, he opened Food World, a giant grocery store; company sales exceeded $500 million in one year. Bruno was an official of many charitable, community, and church organizations.