Italian ingenuity and perseverance lead to successful American businesses

Radio Flyer, Tropicana, Ghirardelli, Jacuzzi, Chun King, Jeno's, Michelina's, Zamboni, Subway and Barnes & Noble sono alcuni dei noti business americani di successo fondati da Italiani e Italo-americani determinati e ingegnosi.

In 1914, Antonio Pasin left his hometown near Venice and arrived in America. His only resources were his skills as a woodworker and a desire to create an affordable toy for boys and girls. Anthony Rossi came to America from Messina, Sicily in 1921. After venturing into many food-related businesses, in the 1950s he developed a way to extend the shelf life of orange juice.

Traveling from his hometown in Rapallo (Genoa, Liguria) to South America and then to California in 1949, this entrepreneur lost several businesses before becoming the owner of a well-known premium chocolate company. Emigrating from northern Italy in the early 1900s, this large family produced aircraft equipment, and then agricultural machinery that included water pumps.

Born in Minnesota in 1918 to immigrant parents from Bellisio Solfare (Pesaro e Urbino, The Marches), Luigino Paulucci has created numerous food companies, all influenced by his mother's cooking. A mechanic by trade and later trained in electronics, this businessman -- whose immigrant parents first settled in Utah and later moved to California -- invented a machine that smoothes ice.

Enterprising teenager Fred DeLuca, born in Brooklyn, NY, teamed with a family friend to establish what has become a top-ranking submarine sandwich shop franchise. Another New Yorker, Leonard Riggio, revolutionized the book industry.

Before reading further, can you guess the name of the business associated with each of the above?

Within three years of arriving in America, Antonio Pasin began crafting wood wagons and then going door-to-door, selling the wagons for several dollars. The business slowly expanded and in 1923, the Liberty Coaster Company -- named after the Statue of Liberty -- hired its first employees. Pasin's wood wagons were popular, but the rapidly growing automobile industry caught his attention, and Pasin began crafting the wagons from metal. To honor Marconi's invention of the radio, Pasin named his red steel wagons Radio Flyer.

After arriving in New York, Anthony Rossi worked in various jobs before owning a grocery store and then starting a business that sold boxes of fresh fruit from Florida to outlets in New York City. As his business expanded, an abundance of smaller oranges not suitable to include in gift boxes led him to use the fruit to make juice. Rossi developed a technique to heat the bottled juice, extending its shelf life and allowing it to be transported without refrigeration. Rossi founded Tropicana in 1947 and sold the business in 1978 to Beatrice Company; Tropicana is now owned by PepsiCo.

When Domenico Ghirardelli arrived in California during the early Gold Rush, he already had years of experience making and selling chocolate candy, first as an apprentice in Italy, and later as a confectionery store owner in South America. In California, Ghirardelli lost several businesses during the San Francisco Great Fire of 1851, but by the following year he had reestablished his chocolate company. In 1865, the Broma process -- a method to extract cocoa butter from the beans -- was developed, and it is still used today. The company continued to grow, becoming a landmark in San Francisco and known throughout the world for its premium chocolate. The company has had numerous owners, including Golden Grain Macaroni Company (founded by Italian immigrants, Domenico and Maria DeDomenico). In 2002, Lindt and Sprungli, a Swiss chocolate company, purchased the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

In the early 1900s, seven Jacuzzi brothers traveled from Italy to California. The brothers were skilled in engineering and developed aircraft equipment, which included a toothpick propeller and an enclosed cabin monoplane. After an accident took one brother's life, the family began making agricultural equipment, specializing in hydraulic pumps. The son of Candido, the youngest brother, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and was receiving hydrotherapy treatment at the hospital. To provide home treatment, a special pump was developed for placement in a bathtub. Over the years, the pump was modified and placed outside the tub, and the entire unit became known as a "Jacuzzi."

Luigino (Jeno) Paulucci had an early introduction to food from his father who owned a grocery store. He later began a wholesale food business and in the 1940s, he developed Chun King -- the first canned Chinese food marketed nationally. In the 1960s, Paulucci founded Jeno's Pizza and created the popular Jeno's Pizza Rolls. Chun King was sold in 1966, and Jeno's was sold to Pillsbury in 1985. In 1990, Paulucci founded Bellisio Foods, the parent company of Michelina's (named after his mother). Paulucci has started more than 50 businesses and has received numerous awards and honors for his entrepreneurial endeavors.

Skilled in mechanics and electronics, Frank J. Zamboni worked with his brothers in auto repair and then in refrigeration units, which expanded to include producing ice for transit packaging. The increase in refrigerated transportation caused the need for block ice to decline, but the popularity of ice skating was taking hold, and in 1939, Frank, his brother and cousin built an ice skating rink. Concerned about the amount of time it took to clean the ice, Zamboni developed a machine to scrape and resurface the ice. In 1949, he applied for his first patent for an ice-resurfacing machine. Over the years, Zamboni improved the ice-resurfacing machine, creating a valuable product and an icon in the ice skating industry -- the Zamboni.

Trying to raise funds for college tuition, in 1965, Fred DeLuca sought the advice of family friend, Dr. Peter Buck, who mentioned a successful sandwich shop in his hometown. The two decided to partner and shortly after, opened Pete's Super Submarines. Although business was slow, two more shops were opened, and in less than 10 years the name was changed to Subway and 16 shops had opened. To reach a goal of opening more shops, the partners decided to franchise the business. The first franchise opened in 1974, and today Subway has more than 32,000 sandwich shops throughout the world. Subway has been a top ranking franchise for 20 years.

In the early 1960s, Leonard Riggio attended college at night and worked in a college bookstore during the day. Finding retailing more interesting, and convinced that he could do a better job than his boss, Riggio quit college and started his own college bookstore. Within several years he opened four bookstores and in 1971, Riggio purchased Barnes & Noble, which was in decline. Through television advertising (the first for a bookstore), discounted books and more acquisitions, Barnes & Noble grew. During the 80s, Riggio formed his retail outlets into superstores that offered a wide variety of books, a knowledgeable staff and a comfortable atmosphere. In the 90s, he extended store hours and added Starbucks cafés. Today, Barnes & Noble is ranked as the world's largest bookseller.

Radio Flyer, Tropicana, Ghirardelli, Jacuzzi, Chun King, Jeno's, Michelina's, Zamboni, Subway and Barnes & Noble are some of the successful and well known American businesses started by resourceful and determined Italians and Italian Americans. For more about these business owners, visit http://home.earthlink.net/~31italians/id16.html.

Janice Therese Mancuso is the author of Con Amore, a culinary novel; and founder of Thirty-One Days of Italians, an educational program to promote Italian and Italian American history, culture, and heritage. For more information, visit http://home.earthlink.net/~31italians, www.jtmancuso.com or email Janice at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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