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Joe Marconi, buyer of Nellos, lived out the American dream in Sarasota.

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SARASOTA -- Administration at the Quay was about to accession the hire on Nellos by $18,000 a year, and buyer Joe Marconi was livid.

It was 1996. The two-floor capital overlooking the bay at the abject of Fruitville Road already was in decline.

Retailers had confused out, authoritative the abode attending depressingly empty. The account for contest and announcement bare to allure shoppers was shrinking.

It was acutely no time to accession rents, so Marconi angrily absitively to never charter addition storefront as continued as he lived.

True to his word, he and wife, Linda, marched beyond Tamiami Trail, laid bottomward $166,000 for an alone architecture on the bend of Fourth Street and began operating with complete independence.

It was the smartest banking accommodation they had anytime made.

This ages a aggregation of developers led by Sarasota agent Neil Hussani paid $4.7 actor for the abundance and an adjoining accommodation circuitous that Marconi bought for $332,500 in 1998.

It's aloof one allotment of a $25 actor accord Hassani has put calm for 1.65 acreage he envisions as the armpit of an 18-story address tower. The per-acre amount is acceptable the accomplished anytime paid in Southwest Florida.

"I am so accountable to the administration of the Quay for absent to accession the hire on us," Marconi said.

For abounding who apperceive the Marconis, the adjustment is alone aloof advantage for three ancestors of adamantine work.

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"Their ancestors represents complete candor in business relationships," said Jack Scheb of Sarasota, a retired judge. "They're aloof capital people. They formed hard, adored money and lived the archetypal American dream."

For 59 years, Nellos has been a accoutrement in Southwest Florida, starting on Capital Street again affective out to the malls in the 1970s and re-entering the centermost of boondocks in time to participate in the burghal renaissance.

But on Feb. 24, the Marconis are retiring, and the Nellos name will retire with them. Their accouchement accept no appetite of demography over.

"They lived it," Linda Marconi said. "They formed in the banal allowance afterwards school. They heard it over banquet every night. They didn't appetite us to get out, but they didn't appetite to get in either."

Living the American dream

Joe Marconi's grandparents, Vincenza and Giuseppe Marconi, immigrated to America at the alpha of the 20th century, accession in Sarasota in 1916.

Giuseppe formed for John Savarese's bartering fishing operation, while Vincenza ran Mom's Place, a restaurant frequented by bazaar magnate John Ringling.

Nello Marconi, the couple's youngest child, was built-in in 1918. His appetite was to go to the University of Florida and become a podiatrist. But his mother told him that academy was for American boys, and that he should apprentice a barter -- become a shoemaker or a tailor.

In 1947, the year Joe Marconi was born, Nello opened a covering appurtenances abundance on Capital Street, affairs luggage, wallets and belts in the advanced and acclimation shoes in the back. Thirteen years later, he broadcast by affairs Glenwit's menswear bazaar and amalgamation the two stores.

Joe Marconi abutting the business in 1969 afterwards admission from the University of South Florida. He was already affiliated to Linda, whom he had met at Westshore Plaza in Tampa. She was affairs women's accouterment and he was affairs men's -- specialties that they would accompany calm for the abutting 36 years.

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Convinced that arcade malls represented the beachcomber of the future, Marconi brash his ancestor to abutting the Capital Street abundance and accessible outlets -- aboriginal at DeSoto Square in Bradenton and afterwards at Sarasota Square.

"The guy negotiating for Sarasota Square basically gave us an ultimatum: Either appear to the capital or we'll coffin you," Marconi said.

After added than a decade, the Marconis had had enough. They aboriginal experimented with a abundance in burghal Venice. Again they confused into Capital Plaza, anon beyond from area the Hollywood 20 is now.

"We did added business there in our aboriginal year than we did at DeSoto Square," Marconi said. "But the development went bankrupt. All the food bankrupt except for us and Maas Brothers."

The brace was again recruited to the added end of boondocks by Ed Donnelly, a co-owner of the Quay. At aboriginal it looked like a abundant deal, but Donnelly larboard the alignment afterwards a altercation with his partners, and the capital deteriorated.

Fortunately, Marconi had accounting an escape article into his charter and was able to jump ship.

"Joe was absolutely abreast in leases," said Hank Battie, the buyer of Cravats Custom Clothiers. "He accomplished me that back negotiating agreement with landlords, you consistently accept to accomplish abiding you accept a way out."

The abatement of retirement

For Joe Marconi the acquaintance of affairs is bittersweet. He won't absence his ascent acreage taxes, one of the capital affidavit he absitively to sell.

"I accusation the burghal and the canton in ample allotment for our ascent amount of accomplishing business," Marconi said. "Small businesses don't get the aforementioned aegis as homeowners. Our tax bills accept soared."

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On the added hand, he will absence the acquiescent badinage with abiding barter that comes with 36 years as a shopkeeper.

"We accept had admirable barter who accept followed us from abode to place."

Customers feel the aforementioned way.

"My bedmate and I accept shopped there for added than 20 years," said Kathy Dent, Sarasota's administrator of elections. "I get so afflicted in big administration stores. What's altered about Nellos is that it has affection commodity and a claimed touch."

Debbie Partridge, co-chair of the Waltz Committee for Sarasota's Babe Ball, additionally brand little stores.

"I'm from a baby Alabama boondocks and I adopt bazaar stores. Linda and Joe pay such absorption to detail. They accomplish their barter feel adequate and happy. They're dependable. That's why I recommended that they do all the tuxedos for our babe escorts and their fathers aftermost year."

The Marconis got in the cape rental business afterwards abrogation the Quay -- a alcove that has been so acknowledged that Nellos broadcast into the conjugal business three years ago.

That, too, has accepted a success, admitting acutely adamantine work, Linda Marconi said.

"I tend to booty on their problems and get bent up in the emotion. The dresses accept to be ordered three to six months out. During that time, the brides accretion weight and lose weight, and so do their bridesmaids. Some get pregnant. So things accept to be consistently adjusted. It's exhausting, and I'm attractive advanced to demography a break."

But don't attending for the Marconis to disappear.

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They intend to assignment with their abbey to admonition adolescent adults about alliance and values, and Joe Marconi wants to accord time to Habitat for Humanity to advice acquisition solutions to the region's affordable apartment problem.

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