Sclafani celebrates 100 years in business
NORWALK -- Luciano V. Sclafani Jr. remembers graduating from college and returning to the family importing business. With a fresh degree in hand, he couldn't wait to help with the operations of business.
His father had other ideas for the hotshot grad.
"He still had me lugging cases," Sclafani recalled during an interview with The Hour recently. "My grandfather and father said that in order to own a business you have to do everything. Eventually Ispent two years as my father's understudy."
Sclafani, importers of Italian foods such as olive oil and tomato products, celebrates 100 years in business this year. Luciano has been with the company for more than half of those years and remembers having peashooter fights in the warehouse as a kid.
Luciano Sclafani's grandfather, Gus Sclafani, founded the company in 1911 and it has been family owned and operated ever since. Gus Sclafani, along with his brother Frank, came to the United States from a small fishing village in Italy in 1902.
According to Luciano Jr., Gus sold fish in Stamford to earn money and in 1911 established a warehouse on State Street where he imported items such as olive oil, anchovies and tomatoes.
"He had products previously not sold in the United States,' Luciano said.
In 1920, Gus created the concept of an Italian food store. In 1938, after two other locations, he built a state-of-the-art warehouse with perimeter refrigeration on Glenbrook Road in Stamford.
Luciano Jr., who also goes by Lucian and Lou, runs the company with his three brothers Gus, Bruce and Ron. They are the third generation in the business. Bruce now has sons in the business who represent the fourth generation.
"We yell a lot, but that's communication," he said of running a business with family members. "If we didn't have that, we'd be in trouble. One thing we're unanimous on is never compromising on quality."
The company is now based in Norwalk on Butler Street at the location of the former ice rink. The company moved there 12 years ago after not finding a large enough location in Stamford. Former Norwalk Mayor Frank Esposito, who knew the Sclafani family, helped lure the business to Norwalk.
"Moving to Norwalk was phenomenal and I'm proud to be here," Luciano said.
Sclafani now imports more than 350 products from across the world.
"We'll source the world," Luciano Sclafani said. "Wherever it's the best, that's where we'll get it from. I would say 85 percent of our products are from Europe. We're the apex of the triangle in terms of quality. We don't want to be the biggest, we want to be the best. And we'll fight to get the best quality"
For Luciano, sometimes he means fight literally.
In 2008, he led the charge to have the state of Connecticut adopt quality standards for labeling olive oil. He noticed stores selling "extra virgin" olive oil at unreasonably low prices and knew the products were inferior. Connecticut became the first state to adopt the standards. Since then, California, New York and Oregon have adopted similar standards. Sclafani said New Jersey and Massachusetts are considering the standards.
"Little by little we're getting it done," he said. "We're proud of that. Of all the things I've accomplished in my professional life, I'm most proud of that. We're protecting consumers and the industry."
Brian Griffin, vice president of the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce, said the success of the business has as much to do with the Sclafani's themselves as anything else.
"The Sclafani family has succeeded in business for 100 years by adhering to two core principles: quality and integrity. These intertwined values are manifested not only in their products, but in the family members as well," he said. "You would certainly be hard-pressed to find a more professional and decent man than Lucian Sclafani. We congratulate them on this very significant milestone, and wish them the very best for the next 100 years."
By CHRISBOSAK, The Hour [www.thehour.com/story/507426]