A Breed Aside: Antonacci Household Continues to Deliver Companies to the Winner’s Circle
Frank M. Antonacci with ‘Lindy the Nice.’
Within the early 1950s, Man ‘Sonny’ Antonacci began a sanitation enterprise with a single truck. That enterprise has advanced right into a diversified, multi-generational household enterprise that features a horse-racing farm, a family-entertainment facility referred to as Sonny’s Place, and a rustic membership in Hampden referred to as GreatHorse. Every element of this conglomerate was the product of imaginative and prescient, entrepreneurial spirit, arduous work (a lot of that), and a few luck. For his or her means to breed winners — on the monitor and in enterprise — the Antonacci household has been named BusinessWest’s Prime Entrepreneurs for 2018.
Frank M. Antonacci was requested to speak about his grandfather, the late Man ‘Sonny’ Antonacci, and put his life and entrepreneurial spirit into some sort of perspective.
It was an easy request, however Frank M. (the M is to differentiate him from his father, Frank A. — “I’m not a junior, and he’s not a senior”) paused after which struggled considerably as he looked for the phrases and phrases to get the job finished.
“He was … a particular man,” he stated lastly. “He was a visionary; he was extremely religious, however robust. He was extremely sort, but aggressive.”
Frank’s cousin, Man, named after his grandfather, clearly, agreed, and in addition put the phrase ‘visionary’ to heavy use.
“He would see issues 20 years earlier than anybody else would,” he advised BusinessWest. “He needed to get within the bottled-water enterprise within the ’70s with my father and uncle, however they requested him, ‘who’s going to pay for a bottle of water?’ He’s laughing up there now, that’s for positive.”
It was Sonny who began a trash enterprise in New York, again roughly 65 years in the past, with a single truck named the ‘Mary Anne,’ after his spouse. With that one truck — kind of — he and subsequent generations would go on to construct various profitable, high-profile companies, together with the enterprise that sprang from the Mary Anne, USA Waste & Recycling, one of many largest corporations of its sort within the area.
There’s additionally a horse farm, Lindy Farms in Somers, that has bred and educated a string of champion trotters; Sonny’s Place in Somers, named, clearly, after the patriarch, an enormous and regularly rising family-entertainment venue that now consists of every little thing from miniature golf to ziplining to a century-old carousel (extra on it later); and, final however not least, GreatHorse, the high-end personal golf membership created on the location of the previous Hampden Nation Membership however wanting nothing very similar to its predecessor; in a nod to Lindy Farms, there are horse references all through, proper right down to the banquet corridor, named the Beginning Gate.
Man, left, and Frank Antonacci stand by a photograph of their grandfather, ‘Sonny,’ within the foyer of USA Waste & Recycling.
As we look at this secure of profitable companies (sure, that’s the primary of many horse and racing phrases you’ll learn), we’ll begin by going within the wayback machine to July 1969 and, extra particularly, a Sports activities Illustrated article (printed in a problem with Vince Lombardi on the duvet) chronicling the meteoric rise of a horse referred to as Lindy’s Delight, purchased for $15,000 by Sonny Antonacci and a number of other cousins.
All of whom, the SI author recalled, grew up engaged on ice vans earlier than they labored on rubbish vans, and struggled for a few years to construct the enterprise.
“We’re nonetheless right down to earth,” a unique Frank Antonacci, Man’s cousin, informed SI as their horse was getting ready to race within the prestigious Hambletonian, the number-one prize in harness racing, which he would win. “We’ve all been working since we have been 13; we all know what a buck is. Right now … there’s not certainly one of us who’s not profitable. We’ve been fortunate.”
Perhaps. However in lots of respects, this household has made its personal luck, and continues to take action at present. Certainly whereas it’s straightforward to say that each one of this — and ‘all’ means the horses, the go-karts at Sonny’s Place, and the nation membership — was born of New York and New Jersey trash. However in actuality, it was all born of an entrepreneurial spirit and a capability to see one thing that wasn’t there earlier than.
Certainly, Sonny’s Place was previously a ramshackle driving vary, stated Man Antonacci. “There have been days once we’d see perhaps a number of individuals are available; it was like that driving vary in Tin Cup, with a pink 1960 Volkswagen Beetle out entrance,” he recalled, making a reference to the favored film starring Kevin Costner, who performed a down-on-his-luck golf professional and operator of a variety frequented by extra armadillos than duffers.
And Hampden Nation Membership was primarily dying on the vine when the household purchased it a decade in the past and determined, ultimately, after an preliminary try at a mere makeover, to rework it into probably the most luxurious, and unique, membership within the area.
Sonny’s Place, the flowery family-entertainment complicated in Somers, now stands on the location of a little-used driving vary likened to the one within the film ‘Tin Cup.’
For his or her efforts over the previous seven many years or so, the Antonacci household — and sure, that features Sonny, his brothers, and cousins — have been chosen as BusinessWest’s Prime Entrepreneurs for 2018. This quantities to a lifetime achievement award for the household — truly, a number of lifetimes.
As a result of at this time, as many years in the past, members of this household keep humble and perceive the which means of a buck — and the best way to make one as properly.
This turns into clear in an in depth interview with Man and Frank M., chosen spokespeople for a household that is aware of what it’s wish to breed winners — as in horses and enterprise ventures.
Harnessing Entrepreneurial Spirit
There was a light-weight snow falling on Christmas Eve morning, and it lent much more magnificence to a spot the place it abounds — Lindy Farms.
There, Frank M. talked concerning the enterprise and particularly the massive, good-looking horse referred to as Lindy the Nice. A trotter, he loved a profitable 2018, profitable a number of races, and on this morning was getting a brushing and a few R&R earlier than heading to Florida for the off season.
“We’re nonetheless right down to earth. We’ve all been working since we have been 13; we all know what a buck is. At the moment … there’s not considered one of us who’s not profitable. We’ve been fortunate.”
Lindy the Nice, 16.1 palms excessive (not 16.2 or 16.three), by Frank’s guess, is the embodiment — one among many, truly — of the multi-faceted companies ventures that did, certainly, spring from New Jersey trash.
Our story begins with that trash truck referred to as the Mary Anne and the enterprise that turned generally known as the South Shore Sanitation. Whereas remaining a comparatively small operation, it offered the wherewithal to enterprise into horses — and far more.
In 1974, Sonny, following a priest who had been reassigned to a church in Somers, moved his household there, stated Frank, including that, whereas he was ‘retired’ at age 40, he didn’t keep retired for lengthy in any respect.
He and Mary Anne began Somers Sanitation, once more, with one truck (this one didn’t have a reputation), and shortly grew the enterprise, which now stretches from the Vermont border to Southern Connecticut.
What was initially envisioned as a ‘makeover’ turned the entire transformation generally known as GreatHorse.
Immediately, it boasts 5 hubs and 16 switch stations, serving a variety of companies and communities in Connecticut and Western Mass.
It was with income from the trash enterprise that Sonny Antonacci and a number of other cousins ventured into horse racing. Their ardour for the game started once they attended races at Roosevelt Raceway on Lengthy Island, and it went to a a lot greater and totally different degree once they purchased their first horse, named Galahad Hanover, and shortly renamed Lindy’s Delight, in 1967.
That horse would go on to win not solely the Hambletonian, however the illustrious trotting Triple Crown, and primarily set a tone for Lindy Farms, named, type of, after the city of Lindenhurst on Lengthy Island, the place the Antonaccis grew up.
Through the years, the operation, now in Somers, Enfield, and Hampden, Mass., has continued its profitable methods and expanded on a number of fronts.
“Till about 15 years in the past, it was targeted on standardbreds — trotters and pacers,” Frank defined. “However in recent times, we’re expanded into thoroughbred racing, and we’ve had some success there, as properly.”
Particularly with a stallion referred to as No Identify By no means. “He could be the most well liked freshman stallion on the earth this yr,” he stated, noting that, as a 2-year-old, he gained honors as ‘Thoroughbred of the Yr’ in Europe.
The racing enterprise, just like the trash enterprise earlier than it, typifies how this household approaches enterprise — by going all in. They don’t simply need to be a participant in an business; they need to dominate that business.
Certainly, horse breeding and racing has turn into a ardour for 3 generations of relations, and the extent of excellence attained turns into obvious within the variety of trophies and awards on show on the workplaces of USA Hauling & Recycling.
Sonny Antonacci is taken into account a visionary in terms of breeding standardbred racehorses, stated his grandson, Frank, and he bred extra Hambletonian horses than any particular person breeder. In 2001, Sonny, alongside together with his cousin Frank, have been elected to the Harness Racing Corridor of Fame’s Corridor of Immortals.
That racing custom continued with the subsequent era, his sons, Jerry and Frank, who’ve remained lively in selling the business. Frank is presently director of the Hambletonian Society, which oversees the event, administration, and promotion of the harness-racing business all through the nation, and he’s additionally director of the U.S. Trotting Assoc., the governing physique of the complete home business.
And Frank M. (often known as Frankie to relations) has taken up that mantle. He’s now the top coach at Lindy Racing Secure and has been making a reputation for himself inside the sport, profitable the U.S. Trotting Assoc. ‘Breakthrough Award’ in 2010.
Whereas there are not any trophies, ribbons, plaques, or prize winnings to quantify success of their different enterprise ventures, the Antonaccis’ drive to take the lead — and hold it — in no matter area they occur to get into is clearly evident.
It may be seen with each Sonny’s Place and GreatHorse, which got here to fruition the identical approach the trash and horse-racing ventures did — by means of imaginative and prescient and plenty of exhausting work.
And a dialog on the dinner desk, stated Man, who vividly remembers this one relating to that previous, run-down driving vary the household acquired a dozen or so years in the past and what could be achieved with it.
Earlier Prime Entrepreneurs
• 2017: House owners and managers of the Springfield Thunderbirds
• 2016: Paul Kozub, founder and president of V-One Vodka
• 2015: The D’Amour Household, founders of Massive Y
• 2014: Delcie Bean, president of Paragus Strategic IT
• 2013: Tim Van Epps, president and CEO of Sandri LLC
• 2012: Rick Crews and Jim Brennan, franchisees of Docs Categorical
• 2011: Heriberto Flores, director of the New England Farm Staff’ Council and Companions for Group
• 2010: Bob Bolduc, founder and CEO of Delight
• 2009: Holyoke Fuel & Electrical
• 2008: Arlene Kelly and Kim Sanborn, founders of Human Useful resource Options and Convergent Options Inc.
• 2007: John Maybury, president of Maybury Materials Dealing with
• 2006: Rocco, Jim, and Jayson Falcone, principals of Rocky’s Hardware Shops and Falcone Retail Properties
• 2005: James (Jeb) Balise, president of Balise Motor Gross sales
• 2004: Craig Melin, then-president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Hospital
• 2003: Tony Dolphin, president of Springboard Applied sciences
• 2002: Timm Tobin, then-president of Tobin Techniques Inc.
• 2001: Dan Kelley, then-president of Equal Entry Companions
• 2000: Jim Ross, Doug Brown, and Richard DiGeronimo, then-principals of Concourse Communications
• 1999: Andrew Scibelli, then-president of Springfield Technical Group School
• 1998: Eric Suher, president of E.S. Sports activities
• 1997: Peter Rosskothen and Larry Perreault, then-co-owners of the Log Cabin Banquet and Assembly Home
• 1996: David Epstein, president and co-founder of JavaNet and the JavaNet Café
“There have been days once we’d have one buyer come and spend $eight on a bucket of balls, and we stored considering, ‘what else can we do with this place?’” he recalled. “My brother and Frankie’s youngest brother have been in all probability about 10, 11, or 12 on the time, and actually on the lookout for one thing that they might develop up having enjoyable at. So we stated, ‘everybody loves miniature golf; perhaps we should always attempt that.’”
They did, and from these humble beginnings — miniature golf and a meals truck with ice cream — new additions have been added seemingly yearly since. Go-karts and batting cages got here subsequent, adopted by a full restaurant, an arcade, a pavilion, rock-climbing partitions, laser tag, miniature bowling, digital actuality, reside live shows, and extra.
The power has grow to be a vacation spot not only for households, however for a rising variety of corporations trying to host outings or team-building workouts. The marketing strategy, unofficial in nature, has all the time been to repeatedly construct on the inspiration and — in line with the tone of these unique conversations — maintain in search of new methods to make the most of a big and extremely seen tract of land.
The newest manifestation of this philosophy was the addition, in 2017, of a carousel with an extended and proud historical past and, sure, various good-looking horses.
Constructed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Firm in 1925, the experience’s first house was Delaware Seashore. It then had a prolonged keep at Lakewood Park in Waterbury, Conn., after which, after refurbishment, at Kiddieland Park in Melrose, Unwell.
It was languishing in a storage container at Chicago Land when Man’s father, Jerry, the primary driver within the creation and continued progress of Sonny’s Place, discovered it and concluded that it was the subsequent huge piece within the puzzle.
“It’s a murals, all hard-carved picket horses and sleighs,” stated Man, noting that it opened for enterprise final August. “We’re having it refinished now, and perhaps a 3rd of the 48 horses have been restored; it’s been a labor of affection.”
The identical could be stated of Greathorse, which, just like the carousel — and the previous driving vary itself — was a restoration effort that required some imaginative and prescient, after which some capital and a very good marketing strategy.
As Man — who turned professional and performed on a couple of of golf’s mini-tours earlier than coming to the belief that the large stage was past his talent degree — recollects the story, the household truly began on the lookout for a golf course to purchase almost 20 years in the past to additional diversify the household enterprise past trash and horses.
The search was put apart, particularly as Sonny’s Place was being developed, after which taken up once more initially of this decade, with various choices in play earlier than deciding on the previous Hampden Nation Membership, then heading for the public sale block.
“We might see that it had a whole lot of potential, but in addition a whole lot of scars to it,” he recalled. “What bought the place was the view, and we knew that, with some imaginative and prescient and a few work, the place could possibly be one thing.
“I’d be mendacity if I sat right here and informed you once we purchased the place we had the grand imaginative and prescient of doing what we did,” he went on, noting that a mere facelift was the unique plan. “However as we acquired into it … as Frankie has stated, we actually don’t half-ass something; every thing we do, we do to the perfect of our means.”
Spring in Their Step
Frank M. says he can’t recall not being in enterprise or entrepreneurial.
Certainly, whereas he was concerned with the household companies, in some capability, since he was teenager, he was additionally wanting to hang around his personal shingle, and did, at age 15.
The enterprise — born from one other of these Sunday afternoon conversations on the dinner desk — was referred to as School Sure Cleanups, a “concierge-type service for previous women who wanted their basement cleaned out, or their storage.
“It was a summer time sort of factor,” he recalled. “I introduced in a associate who was 16 — I wanted somebody with a driver’s license — and we had a bit of dumptruck and did cleanups. We had a bit of advert within the Reminder, and we did OK for ourselves.”
Just like the generations that got here earlier than him, he added, noting that he ultimately put his personal enterprise apart and targeted on horses and trash, typically in that order, typically the opposite. And there was, and is, all the time speak about new alternatives and paths to go down, like Sonny Antonacci projecting a necessity for bottled water.
“Enterprise … it’s a part of each dialog we’ve,” stated Frank, referring to the household’s entrepreneurial DNA and a ardour for locating and creating new enterprise alternatives. And these traits have been handed down from one era to the subsequent. Frank may even see it in his younger youngsters.
“I drive round with my youngsters, we’ll go previous numerous strip malls, they usually’ll look to see if it’s the great guys or the dangerous guys choosing up the [trash] containers,” he stated. “I see it my older son [age 7] already; he’s making an attempt to know how enterprise works.”
Inside the Antonacci secure of enterprise, enterprise works perhaps somewhat in a different way than in most locations, stated the third-generation spokespeople.
“What individuals have a tough time understanding about our enterprise and our household is that it’s totally different — I name it ‘sloppy,’” stated Frank, who understood that he wanted to elucidate that time period and did.
“We’re not very structured,” he advised BusinessWest. “The best way we do issues is slightly unorthodox, and there isn’t the bureaucratic group you see in different companies or households. Individuals will say, ‘what’s your title?’ or this or that. It’s so much looser than that.”
‘Unfastened.’ ‘Sloppy.’ ‘Unorthodox.’ No matter it’s, it appears to be working, and within the historically difficult setting of a multi-generational household enterprise, or set of companies, to be extra exact.
There are literally 4 generations nonetheless concerned. Certainly, Frankie and Man stated their fathers, Frank and Jerry, have breakfast with their mom each morning. “They usually’re in all probability operating issues by her every single day,” stated Frank M.
The second era, as famous, stays captivated with all elements of the enterprise operation, however particularly the horse breeding and racing, they stated.
In the meantime, there are lots of third-generation members concerned, or quickly to be concerned, together with Man’s brother Matthew, 24, and Frank’s brothers, Chris and Phillip.
General, stated each Man and Frank M., the generations have labored nicely collectively, and every has been allowed to make their mark — and their very own contributions.
“Our fathers and uncles have allowed us to comply with our passions, increase the companies, and convey our personal appear and feel,” stated Frank. “And so far, everybody who’s been concerned within the companies has helped them develop and prosper. Why change the formulation?”
On the End Line
‘Sonny’ Antonacci by no means did get into the bottled-water enterprise, his sons having persuaded him that there was no future in it. That’s household lore, anyway.
“His well-known line was, ‘you’ll see … bottled water might be greater than a gallon of fuel,” stated Frank M. “And he was proper — and that’s only one instance.”
Certainly, whereas the Antonacci household by no means turned a part of the multi-billion-dollar bottled-water business, it has definitely had much more hits than misses. In enterprise, as in harness racing, it has discovered the winner’s circle much more typically than most.
Having capital from the trash enterprise has definitely helped, however so too has been the power to see different alternatives the place others didn’t, having true entrepreneurial spirit — and, sure, being sort but in addition aggressive.
‘Sonny’ had all these attributes, and so have the generations which have adopted him.
That’s why this household is BusinessWest’s Prime Entrepreneurs for 2018.
George O’Brien may be reached at [email protected]