Italian Tradesmen and Entrepreneurs
While the majority of Fernie’s Italian immigrants worked in coal mines and for the railways, a number were businessmen. Philip Carosella arrived in 1881 and worked for William Fernie. With brother Louis, he opened a general store in Fernie’s Old Town. Philip also built the Roma Hotel, which was run by his son-in-law Dominic Nicoletti. The premises were destroyed in the 1908 fire with losses totalling $25,000.
Alessandro (Al) Rizzuto immigrated to the US with a guardian in 1888 when he was 15. In 1895, Al walked to the Thompson placer mines in the Cariboo District and then went to work for the CPR. He used his fluency in English to serve as a court interpreter. With brother Angelo, he leased the Roma Hotel from Philip Carosella, where he operated a small bank; he also ran a livery stable. The Rizzutos lost $10,500 in the 1908 fire. They rebuilt and purchased the Imperial Hotel and established a construction business. Al became a member of the Fernie Board of Trade, almost un-heard-of since it was a bastion of the British establishment.
Emilio Picariello arrived in Fernie in 1911 from Ontario and took over operation of the macaroni factory established in 1909-1910 by G. Maraniro. Between 1911 and 1918, Picariello started a number of other businesses including cigar and ice cream factories, and a wholesale food delivery operation.
The number of Italian businesses continued to grow as individuals made money in the mines and chose more congenial enterprises.
Audio clip with transcript: “Italian Immigration History | Al Rizutto Story (03:05)