- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Anthony “Tony” M. Rizzo Jr., president and CEO of the Rizzo Companies (Rizzo), says his business philosophy is simple. “We believe in our faith, our family and our business; in that order,” he shares. “Without your faith and family, you don’t have anything and the business is needed to support both.”
The Connecticut-based, third-generation family-owned company has upheld this belief for more than 50 years, focusing on electrical contracting, general construction and construction management, as well as heavy, highway electrical and environmental consulting services. Although the business has grown, Rizzo prides itself on giving all its clients personal attention.
It is important to note that Rizzo contributes to numerous local and national charities, including Boy Scout troops and high school sports teams, supporting an average of over 75 different charities annually. The company is also the founder and a major sponsor for the Greater Danbury Arthritis Walk and the Rizzo Invitational Golf Tournament, which support the Arthritis Foundation. The company takes its commitment one step further, as several family members sit on chair boards of many charities and schools, as well. According to Tony Jr., being part of the fabric of the greater Danbury area and Fairfield County comes naturally to Rizzo.
Achieving La Dolce Vita
Rizzo’s story is part determination and part hard work, which defines the American Dream for many. Tony’s father, Anthony “Tony” M. Rizzo Sr., came to the United States at the young age of 12, unable to speak a word of English. “My uncle and aunt, who lived in the U.S., were never blessed with children. When my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was left with five children to raise, she sent my father and his sister to live with family in the states. When my father couldn’t understand why his mother would send him away, she said, ‘In America, you can achieve La Dolce Vita, which means the sweet life.'”
Tony Sr. was raised by his relatives and graduated from Henry Abbott Technical School (HATS). Four years after graduating from HATS, he met and married his soul mate, Joan. In 1962 the newlyweds decided to start A. M. Rizzo Electrical Contractors Inc.
“My parents started out doing residential electrical and small commercial work,” recalls Tony Jr. “They worked out of the basement office of our two-family home and the shed in our backyard served as the shop.”
As Tony and Joan’s small business grew, so did the Rizzo family. “I’m one of four siblings,” states Tony Jr. “My parents’ wish was that eventually one of us would want to be involved in the family business. As it turned out, all four of us joined the company. Currently, we have 12 to 15 family members working here, including the third generation. We’re about as much of a family business as you can possibly have.”
Tony Jr. goes on to note that the family offers more than Rizzo. “My three siblings took their own entrepreneurial spirits to start and manage successful businesses in their own right,” he continues. “Mike, my older brother, owns an equipment company. My brother and sister, Ross and Mary Jean, own a contracting company.”
Tony Jr. took over the leadership role of Rizzo in 1992, when he was just 26 years old. At that time, the second generation started building upon the traditions that were established by the founders and have continued the growth process of the business.
Currently, the third generation is involved in running the business and continues to carry out the same traditions. “What sets us apart is we still have that small, hometown feel,” says Tony Jr. “People can pick up the phone and talk to me. I go to our job sites and sit in on meetings. I’m very hands-on and am our biggest critic. I know all of our clients. If something is not right with the project, I want to fix it.”
The company’s headquarters remain in Danbury, Conn., today. “Nearly 15 years after sending my father to the U.S., the family reassembled in Danbury and my aunt and uncle had more children than they knew what to do with,” recalls Tony Jr. “Danbury is still our home, but we’ll go to Rhode Island, Massachusetts and lower New York to do work.”
Building a Basis for Growth
Through Rizzo’s founding values, the company’s reputation has grown and its diversification will continue as the third generation has joined the ranks of management. “I asked myself, ‘What can we do to grow the business,'” says Tony Jr. “We decided to continue to diversify.”
Today, A.M. Rizzo Electrical Construction (Rizzo Electric), and the Rizzo Corporation, a general contracting division, reside under the Rizzo umbrella. “My brother-in-law, Tony Rebeiro, oversees Rizzo Electric,” says Tony Jr. “He’s been by my side for 30 years and continues to be my right hand. We’ve expanded into large commercial work, from traffic signalization to incident management systems. We have a communications division that does telephone installations and an environmental remediation consulting division.”
Rizzo Electric performs electrical contracting for a variety of applications, from pumping stations to waste water treatment plants and schools. “We also have a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week electrical service department,” adds Tony Jr. “We’re currently doing a $32 million substation for the Department of Transportation and Metro North along the New Haven Rail Line to deliver power along the route, and we’re also working at the Danbury Airport, installing new beacons and poles for the flight path.”
In addition to Rizzo’s electrical capabilities, the Rizzo Corporation delivers general construction and construction management to a wide range of facilities that include firehouses, hospitals, schools, banks, parking garages and office buildings.
“We’re quite diversified,” shares Tony Jr. “We’re currently performing and managing an $18 million specialty project in the New Haven Rail Yard for the Department of Transportation and Metro North. Also at this time, we are doing major renovations at three Danbury schools and we have just broken ground for the first state-of-the-art regional hospice facility in the area.”
Tony Jr. admits Rizzo’s diversity and growth potential is directly related to a core team of valued employees. “Our employees use a personal touch to deliver service with peace-of-mind,” he emphasizes. “To achieve growth, it takes continuity and a solid base of good employees. The head of our service department has been with the company for 27 years and our warehouse manager has been here for 28 years. We have a really incredible team. Our employees are family.”
Despite expansion, Rizzo remains true to its roots. “When you walk up the stairs into our office, you’ll see a picture of my grandmother, one of my aunt and uncle and another one of my father’s home, which was located in a poverty-stricken area in Italy,” shares Tony Jr. “These are tributes to the people who have made Rizzo. They help keep the younger generations humble as a reminder of where we’ve come from.”
Tony Jr. reveals the honest truth behind the success of Rizzo. “When you break it down, we treat others the way we would want to be treated, which is with respect,” he explains. Tony Jr.’s positive attitude and honest mindset have provided a solid foundation for the company’s continued success. For over 50 years, the Rizzo Companies have focused on faith, family and building a successful, honest business, offering service with peace of mind.
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