AVIS — Rizzo’s Greenhouse & Flower Shop celebrates 90 years with four generations and growing.
Located at 2803 Woodward Avenue in Lock Haven Haven, the greenhouse and flower shop has been operated through four generations of the Rizzo family.
The business is currently run by Paul and Cathy Rizzo.
The story of the locally-famous greenhouse and flower shop begins as the Rizzo family emigrated to the United States from Calabria, Italy, in 1903. Paul’s grandparents, Guiseppe (Joseph) Rizzo and Grazia (Grace) Marasco, were the first of the Rizzos to step foot on American soil. They were then married sometime between 1905 and 1906, according to Paul, and resided in North Bend, Pa. They had nine children together, Michael, Anthony (Tony), Paul (Paully), Mary, Rose, Joseph Jr., Frances, John (Paul’s father) and Dorothy.
Guiseppe worked in the paper mill in Lock Haven and Grazia was a “homebody” as many women were during that time, said Paul. Eventually in 1932, the two decided to build a small greenhouse where they grew vegetables and mushrooms.
“My grandfather, grandmother and uncle (Tony) started to grow mushrooms and vegetables. That continued for many years and they increased items and eventually to the point they grew holiday items at Easter and Mother’s Day,” Paul said.
However, Paul’s grandparents were unable to grow during the winter months as there was no way to heat the greenhouses. It was impossible to grow for holidays such as Christmas.
“One of the main reasons they did that combination — mushrooms and vegetables — they could bring in manure and as manure is degrading, it creates heat. It would keep the greenhouse warm for the vegetables above it and the mushrooms would grow in the manure. They were very clever, ingenious people — they did what they had to do to survive,” Paul said.
That was during The Great Depression and then into World War II. After serving in the war, John attended Delaware Valley College of Agriculture in 1945 where he learned more about floriculture and landscaping. His brother, Tony, would pass away in 1949 with Paul’s grandfather following several months later. Paul’s uncle, Paully, his father and mother continued the family business with the other siblings helping out as much as possible.
Along the lines, John and Paul’s uncle Paully went into business together in the early 1950s, starting out with landscaping. A portion of the greenhouse was then relocated down from Clinton Street in Lock Haven after John married Paul’s mother.
In 1952, John married Anne Jannerella, of North Bend. Together, they built a small house in Charleton, Pa., along what is now Woodward Avenue. Part of the greenhouse was then relocated beside that house where it is operated today. Paul’s mother continued to operate the other portion of the old Clinton Street greenhouse for another year after that. She passed away in 1972.
“They had a little house here next door and then they had the greenhouse. Every couple of years as they had a little bit of money, they’d add on another section,” said Cathy Rizzo.
John and Anne had three sons, John, Paul and Michael. The business expanded as they grew up and started work for the Rizzo family business.
Paul’s brother, (Young) John, attended Penn State for Biology and Botany. In 1972 as the brothers became more active in the business, they built a gift shop which Anne operated, and a flower shop next to the greenhouse. The three worked alongside their dad, learning the trade first hand.
John also worked for Piper Aircraft as his day job up until retiring in the 1980s.
“When he wasn’t at Piper, he was landscaping or doing whatever he could here to keep this business going,” Cathy said.
Several years after 1972, the main greenhouse showroom and garden shop was built on. The whole family pitched in for the business. The three brothers took courses at Hixon School of Floral Design and some courses at Ohio State University — the three becoming floral designers there afterward. Today, Paul’s brothers, though moved away from Rizzo’s full-time with their own families, do help out in the greenhouse during the holidays.
Today, Rizzo’s Flower Shop covers about a 20,000 square feet of inside growing and about 20,000 square feet of outside area where the Rizzos do displays and grow. There are about 12 total greenhouses.
“The original greenhouse was only about a 1,000 square feet. So, we’ve increased a great deal. Of course, they just had a little backyard to do their business,” Paul said.
Having worked with his parents for years, Paul eventually hired his now wife, Cathy, in 1994. They eventually married in 1998, Paul said. The two took over Rizzo’s Flower Shop and had a family of their own.
“The business has changed a great deal and we’ve picked up new products. We have done different things — cut flowers, landscaping and maintenance, service churches, operate the greenhouse all year round, doing weddings and funerals — we have become multifaceted over the years,” Paul and Cathy said.
Paul and Cathy are are now raising the next generation of the Rizzos in the business with their kids, Joey and Grace. Joey currently works full-time alongside his parents.
“We love what we do … When it’s a job that you love, how easy it can be to do it when you love it,” they said.
Rizzo’s Greenhouse & Flower Shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It serves Clinton, Lycoming and Centre counties.
For more information on Rizzo’s Greenhouse & Flower Shop, visit their Facebook or call them at (570) 753-3603.