I am a fourth generation “Rozzo” and the proud owner of my family’s wholesale fish business, F. Rozzo & Sons. The company came into being when Felix Rozzo, my great grandfather, left his native Naples for America in 1895. As with most Europeans making the long trip to Ellis Island, he was looking to give his children a better future in the new world through honest hard work and inventive entrepreneurship. After settling in New York, he was immediately intrigued by the hustle and bustle of the Fulton Street Fish market, the original Manhattan home of New York’s seafood business.
Felix, who never actually learned to speak English, initially took a job as a ditch digger and worked long hours for his $5 a week salary. His wife, Nanciadio, got a job filleting fish, making a handsome $5 day. Seeing a good opportunity, they teamed up and started trying to buy fish at the market and sell it from their cart on the side of the road.
This, however, proved rather challenging for my great-grandfather, who only spoke Italian. The first time he tried going to the market, he couldn’t find it. The second time, since the market was run by the Irish, Felix was not even permitted to buy fish. But not one to quit easily, Felix finally succeeded when accompanied by his brother-in-law (an Italian but established fish merchant) and F. Rozzo, Inc (as he called his new company) was finally in business.