By Michelle Colesanti
Vigo and Alessi – two names you see on the grocery shelves wherever you shop. What you probably don’t know is that these food items are imported from all around the world and then manufactured and distributed from their local headquarters right here in Tampa. The products from Vigo and Alessi that you see are actually from one family-owned business, Vigo Importing Company.
In 1907, Antonino (Tony) Alessi and his family emigrated from Sicily to America. Back then, Tampa was known primarily for handmade cigars. At age 19, Alessi landed a job as a salesman for a national company. He had two sons, Tony, Jr. and Alfred, and was concerned for his sons’ future. The company he worked for had a policy of not hiring family members, so Tony left the security of his position and started Vigo Importing Company. In doing so, he displayed that same pioneering spirit that guided his parents to America a generation before. Together, with their father, sons Tony Jr. and Alfred have brought Vigo Importing Company from its humble origins to what is now, a multi-million dollar corporation with national and international sales.
When you visit the company, the main thing that you will notice is the importance placed on family. Even with 180 employees, everyone is treated as family. Laura DeLuca, granddaughter to founder Tony, said that there is zero attrition on the job. Nobody leaves. Multi -generations of family work at Vigo Importing and there are currently three generations of the Alessi family working at the company, too.
Vigo is comprised of about six buildings. It is built close to train tracks so that the product can be delivered quickly when it arrives at the ports. The rice, all of which comes from the U.S., is received and placed directly into the silos (which can hold 220,000 tons of rice). In one year, more than 18 million lbs. of rice can be produced. Ninety-nine percent of their products travel to Vigo by boat. The only item arriving by plane is Saffron.
As part of a give-back program, for the last 20 years, Vigo Importing has incorporated a tour for fifth grade students every week during the school year. Once a week, they bring in students from various local elementary schools for a tour, where they learn the processes of putting together a product for the grocery shelves, along with what it takes to get it on those shelves. The students are then treated to a lunch.
Local Brandon resident, Laura Rosenau, who interned with the Osprey Observer in 2011 and is a recent graduate from the University of Florida, recently took a social media position at Vigo to help get the word out on all of the wonderful products offered. Rosenau’s father has worked at Vigo for eight years, again impressing on the importance of family at this company. Rosenau said, “It’s a long commute for me, but getting to work with the Alessi family and all of the people at Vigo more than make up for the drive. It really is a great work environment here.”
For more information or to purchase the products online, visit http://vigo-alessi.elsstore.com/.