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.
Every morning at sunrise as Felix rode his horse and buggy to and from the Fulton Fish Market on his way to set up his "store" on the side of the road to sell the freshly purchased fish he had carefully selected, scaled and gutted before dawn, he dreamed of setting up a small store near Fulton Street. A few years later he was able to open his first store on Mott & Hester St. Around 1905 he moved F. Rozzo and Sons to 7th Avenue.
Upon Felix's retirement, his son Louis stepped up to the helm of the family business. Nicknamed "Champagne Louis", F. Rozzo's new owner possessed an uncompromising respect for quality. Louis, my grandfather, soon became a beloved figure throughout Manhattan, known to his customers for his colorful and engaging personality and strong work ethic. My Grandfather, at 20, was an excellent salesman and set out to get the accounts from the best New York restaurants and hotels, eventually establishing F. Rozzo & Sons as one of the most established fish wholesalers. He sold this first-rate seafood to respected local dining establishments, including the New York Yacht Club, developing a devoted client base dependent upon his good eye, quick hand, and reliable nature.
In 1962, Louis's son, Felix, assumed control of the company. Under my father's educated and open-minded direction, the company saw a tremendous growth as refinements in transportation and technology led to a boom in the seafood industry and opened up the business to brand-new possibilities. My father befriended the great French chefs in the preeminent New York French restaurants at the time, and became known as their premier supplier. While continuing to rely on the Fulton Fish market, Felix also began to take advantage of recent innovations in packaging and transportation. He began supplying New York's businesses with previously unattainable fish like Dover Sole from Belgium and Salmon from Norway, increasing the exoticism of restaurant menus and helping to change the taste of New Yorkers citywide.
In 1990, Felix handed down the family business to me, Louis Rozzo. As the company embarks on its second century of existence, it's vital to me to maintain the tradition and high standards of our family business. While F. Rozzo & Sons will always embody a willingness to adapt and innovate, we truly have a strong sense of our history. Located in the same building my grandfather moved into in 1924, we continue to purchase fish from the Fulton Street Fish market, today located in the Bronx. We also procure shipments of exotic seafood from around the world, including tuna from the waters of Ecuador and Trinidad and Hamachi off the coast of New Zealand. Now, having built up the fleet from four to thirteen trucks, we literally have hundreds of devoted customers, and we are always anxious to do whatever it takes to both earn and protect their loyalty.
F. Rozzo & Sons is a slice of old New York in a changing world, and even as our company grows, now shipping fish to five star restaurants as far a field as Las Vegas and San Juan, we will never lose sight of the values that have sustained us generation after generation: extraordinary quality, unparalleled service, and steadfast loyalty.