Beyond the company
Company founder Maroso Francesco Antonio’s interview, contained in the book “TRAGUARDI”, published on the occasion of Maroso Sports Group 25th anniversary.
My adventure continues both in sport and work
Interview with Francesco Antonio Maroso
Via De Gasperi 13. A little piece of Veneto, that represents the history of this region, from the post war period forward. Rural houses and fields to be cultivated, a landscape gradually transforming during the years, that sees rising a larger mobility and some modern production plants, but that still remains, at the same time, a country area. Via De Gasperi 13 has always been everything for Mr Francesco Antonio Maroso. It is home, family, the bond with the land, the “buttons room” of the business activity. It is the affections, work and business spirit “cradle”. However, it is also the “burrow” of the cycling passion, the operational place from where all the inputs for the life of the sport group come from. Via De Gasperi 13, in the south part of Pianezze. «Since always I have my roots in this place» tells Mr Francesco Antonio Maroso. I was born here in 1948, in the old house, in which I still live. My parents, Bortolo e Maria worked as sharecroppers. There was an extended rural area, about 15 acres of the Count Chilesotti of Bassano. There, lived the patriarchal family units of the Maroso’s, Rossi’s, Valerio’s, Barausse’s, and Cortese’s, Pozza’s, Carollo’s, Soster’s from Lusiana, that, as many others, arrived from the outside to work the land. One big farm, a small village with fields, stables, barns, common courts. We worked and lived in a small community, that during the 50s and 60s lost some of its protagonists. In fact, some of those families emigrated to Vercelli and Varese looking for a job, leaving the agricultural sector to find the wellness in the industrial sector
And the Maroso family?
It remained. In the post war years the property began to cede the country areas. Those areas and the properties were divided. My dad Bortolo and my uncle Girolamo acquired exactly this part: the fields with the oxen, the ploughs, the tools. My father began also to work as worker in the building sector, then he worked in the foundries and at the end he worked for Mr Bussandri. I had three brothers; I was born after Giuseppe, but before Marilice and Giampaolo.
Was it a carefree childhood?
Hard times. We were lucky to grow up between cultures and animals, but after the school we had to carry out the agricultural work, in order to help to round out the scanty household budget. The elementary school was in San Vito of Marostica and it was attended by all the children from Fosse and from the south part of Pianezze. In my class there was a dozen of children and from the first to the fifth class our teacher was Mrs Poloni. In the afternoon we had to work in the fields, also in the ones of the maternal uncles. The “amusement” day was on Sunday when all the children of the zone gathered together to go to mass on a three Kilometres walk. The parish of Marostica was as much distant, but we felt part of Pianezze, so we went to town, also to attend catechism. At maximum, the adults gave us a lift to the beginning of the slope.
Which is your viviest memory?
A joy and a disappointment, at the same time, concerning my first bike. I was about twelve years old when I began to save money and I was about fourteen years old when I got to buy a bike. I remember it as it was now. I went to Carlesso in Marostica, that was one of the dealer of Berga; I choose an amazing orange Swell bike with the change and a four gear ratio behind. It was sensational, but unfortunately it did not last too much. During the summer in Marostica arrived “Campanile Sera”, the TV show of Mr Enzo Tortora, something like Jeux Sans Frontières. On those evening we went to Piazza Castello as audience and while I was watching the show somebody stole my bike and my aunt’s one. After all the sacrifices I made! I went home walking and crying. I remained a lot without my own bike.
When did you start to working?
Very early. I liked studying, but it was not the right period because we had to contribute to the household budget, so it means a lot of agricultural work. Fortunately, I attended the school of arts and crafts in Marostica as mechanic fitter. My professor, Mr Rossi, asked me if I wanted to work for the St. Moritz Company of Mr Artuso, that dealt with the rubber sector. Therefore, before being fifteen I began to work in the factory and it was a fundamental experience, because I worked in the work and maintenance shop of the machines tools, in other words in the industrial plant engineering sector. I became the assistant of Mr Bepi Valerio and Marco Smaniotto, the best plumbers of Marostica; we worked on steam lines, high and low pressure, pumps of all kinds. It was a real school for me.
How long did those experience last?
Some years, not a lot. Then, I served the army and after the leave, I still remember the date the 9th of May 1969, I set up on my own. At the age of twenty, I began to work as an installer, I dealt with the maintenance of some boilers in the zone, but soon the zone of work became the one of Montecchio Precalcino and Dueville.
May I ask you why?
if I tell you why you will not believe me. I understood I had to increase my “market” and the range of action to find new customers. At home we had a Fiat 1100L; one day I polished it and I did a round. At the bridge of Astico river of Sandrigo I saw a building company truck. I talked with the driver asking if they need a plumber. Those man was the brother of a building entrepreneur, Mr Giuseppe Baio of Montecchio Precalcino, that by chance in those period was not so satisfied with his plumber. What a story! So suddenly I started to work for him, that was building some houses and residences between Montecchio and Dueville. There was a lot of work; we left in the morning with the Ape and a little pot to came back late in the evening…one thing leads to another and I received the commission from the province for the maintenances of schools, from the National Health Service the commission for the maintenance of the laundry dept. of the hospital of Bassano…
How did this activity develop?
In the 70s, at the age of 22, I already had the first workers. With the beginning of the economic boom of the building sector there was a remarkable thermo hydraulic plant design request. in the 80s the company started to work in the electric plant design sector, the diesel cost increased from 17 £ up to 700 £/litre, so to economize the consumptions the first electrical boxes were installed and the first electric technologies were developed. This was a sector of great development for the company. However, in those years in addition to the company also the family developed.
Really quick also in this case?
Yes, because I got married with Maria Assunta, from Nove, already in 1971. In 1972 Simone was born and in 1974 Ivan. My wife has always been a reference point in the company and for a lot of years she led the carpentry group. However, since always she is the family key person. She left us the responsibility of the sport group, but she has always been willing to organize convivial moments and improvised reunions with the “friends of pedal”.
Meanwhile the Sport Group had been founded.
Yes, it was founded in 1974. The idea has come during the class dinner of Pianezze to the three promoting partners, that is to say Flavio Scalcon, Bortolo Nodari and I. I was not a cyclist, I had few time to ride a bike, but I got involved. Those year was the year of our first debut to the “Pedalata delle Rose” in Schio. Mr Toniazzo, Mr Sacchetto, Mr Luisetto, Mr Polo and I entered in a sport event as the “Group of Cousins” to compete for a prize. I remember the others hit me and I finished the race with the front wheel half smashed. However, they gave us a little cup, the first in our history, ten centimetres high, but that to us looked like a big trophy. From this first competition the Sport Group Maroso was established. In the following year the Statute was formalized and in 1976 we enrolled to the Italian Cycling Federation with the society number 309.
A white blue t-shirt with the Company name since the beginning.
The light blue was my favourite colour and the white band was chosen to show up the sign. Since always I wanted to keep only my Company as sponsor in accordance with the choice of action unity between the Company and the sport initiative. Furthermore, our t-shirts have always been very fashionable and elegant without many frills or brands on it. An unmistakable style.
What was the shield on the old T-shirt?
The cultural group of Pianezze gave us free the first headquarter “Centro Studi G. Lorenzon” (dedicated to a monsignor of Pianezze). The president was Mr Giovanni Munari and the secretary Mr Luciano Chemello. Mr Chemello always helped us a lot, he was a founding partner, but he was not interested in bikes. On the other hand, he had excellent organizational and administrative qualities, so his role was fundamental. To thank the cultural group for its kindness and promote our fellowship we decided to insert their symbol on our t-shirt.
Which are the people you remember gladly?
Well, there are a lot of people I remember gladly. To mention some of them, certainly Don Giovanni Rigoni, that every Thursday evening came to visit us, made a lot of quips and wanted to know everything about our activity. Then, the Doctor Vittorio Campi, our general practitioner, that participated and encouraged us. I remember the support of the two mayors Mr Battista Bertollo and Graziano Prandina, of Mr Giovanni Rigo, Don Gino Pasinato and Mr Giuseppe Zuech MP. Also the support of Mr Raffaele Carlesso, member of the Italian Cycling Federation, and of Mr Vittorio Morini, the provincial president of CONI, was fundamental. However, there would be a lot of people to remember… Concerning the Sport Group Maroso I have to mention Mr Franco Toniazzo, Mr Flavio Scalcon, Mr Giancarlo Cogo, Mr Pio Sacchetto, Mr Flavio Battistello for their capability to organize races, suggest and manage the activity and the sport in general. Then, all the youths that are giving new vigour to our association.
How many were you?
There were about fifteen people, maybe a little more. We rigorously practiced cycling tourism, in other words amateur cycle rides. We had to go out absolutely every Sunday, while every Thursday we gathered at the “Casa della Gioventù” to draft the programs and the routes. During those years the cycling really was in fashion, as the running, so the Italian Cycling Federation calendar was full of events in all Italy. Often, we left early in the morning by bus with our families towards the most disparate destinations. We tried to gather a lot of people because it was useful to gain points for the prize given at the end of the year. Quite soon also our “Pedalada dei Colli” became part of the calendar and in 1982 we organized here in Pianezze the regional meeting: 1200 participants arrived, not only from Veneto, but also from other regions. The best of the Sport Group Maroso was its great spirit, even outside the excursions. For many years, for example, the famous social competition “Lui e Ici”, which was rigorously inside our group, with husbands and wives onto the saddle, was a funny moment that involved all of us.
Which is the cycling tourism excursion that more than others remained in your memory?
The excursion of 1976 in Friuli Venezia Giulia after the earthquake. We visited the devastated zone of San Daniele; it was really shocking.
Thanks to the Sport Group you met a lot of sport celebrities. Do you remember some anecdotes?
I remember, for her congeniality, Ms Gabriella Dorio after the Olympic Games won in Los Angeles. Those evening in Pianezze is still in my memories, more than others spent with some bike legends. Concerning the cycling, unforgettable is the Italian team manager Alfredo Martini, that was so willing to come in Pianezze to receive the “gold keys”, even though he had a lot of commitments; he told us he considered those prize as a prestigious goal; this assertion made us proud. I really appreciated the humility of the champion Damiano Cunego, his capability to make feel other people part of the same world. I have a little sorrow concerning the meeting with Giovanni Battaglin, that those year won both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta; there was a big party in Marostica, but even though he came from here as me, I did not get to enter into a real conversation with him, due to his discretion.
Between work and sport you decided to take on also the socio-political commitment.
From the year 1975 to the year 1980 I had some assignments in the Artisans Association as category president and district councillor. From 1985 to 1995 I was part of the municipal administration of Pianezze, with the mayor Giovanni Rigo, as sport and public works assessor. The most moving moment was when I took part, as mayor’s delegate, to the opening ceremony of the cycling Championship of 1985 at the Mercante of Bassano.
How was the sport in Pianezze during those period?
A lot of football and then cycling with our Sport Group, a little bit of gymnastic at the gym. However, the football had its importance, in fact more or less all the children of Pianezze played it and a lot of people attended the matches. During those years the municipal administration acquired the field. My Company also set up an amateur team, that for several years participated to summer competitions involving a lot of enthusiastic people. So, Maroso S.r.l. left its mark also in the football. For what concerns the bike our group got to enter in the cycling world even in a more decisive way, thanks to our sons competing with other young people. It had been the most valid impulse in the territory of Pianezze for many years. Our events filled a gap persisting from the 70s when there was the Patron competition. Year after year, in 1992 the historical peak was reached, with about eighty members in all the categories up to the absolute amateurs. However, the Group Maroso entered the life of Pianezze becoming fundamental.
In which sense was it fundamental?
Because there were the real participation of the community concerning the cycling activities. The final dinner with the Group was definitely an event, in fact the politicians were willing to take part to it, many celebrities participated and also great champions were invited for the award ceremony.
Then it was necessary to close a cycle.
It is normal. The cycling tourism is not, it lasted undismayed. It is our symbol with the excursions on Sunday, from March until October. However, at a certain point, we decided to stop with the agonistic teams. The cycling world was losing the right way. The media always linked it to doping. It seemed not more the good thing we knew and we always carried on. We did not want to be associated to the bad collective image to which we were unknown. Then, there was the parents folly we could not stop anymore, in fact everybody had a son that was a champion and they pretended the impossible. It was difficult to find technicians and partners. So we concluded we could not manage those situation and that it was better to stop. We did the right thing.
Are you ready to start again now?
There has always been the desire and now we can try again. Starting from the sons’ children. The cycling had been eulogize, but now people understood a lot of things, so it is possible to start again having as aim the sport as good activity. It is useful to develop relationships and the educational growing. There is a cooperation with the schools, there is enthusiasm; the period of problems was the one of adjustment after the sons’ marriage. Now they are discovering again the cycling, returning to the past.
For what concerns the amateur activity, after 30 years, it is indestructible.
Yes, as I was saying. Today the group involves 45 cyclists and at every excursion on Sunday we are never less than 20-25. Meanwhile, the world has changed. The federation does not organize so much events, because the traffic has become a “monster”, that devours everything and the old safe streets do not exist anymore. However, we still organize our 30-40 excursions on our own, 4 or 5 of them are a classic, but we also invent new routes.
Which are the passions of Francesco Maroso? Except for the bike, obviously.
In the past I played tennis in Sandrigo and I practiced ski. Today my hobby is to cultivate the land, taking care of the grapevines and produce wine is relaxing.
And what about the Company?
I do not have a computer and today everything is carried out with it. However, there are Simone and Ivan, that took the rein of the company, but I still dedicate to the public relations with the customers. At the end of the 90s it was difficult not to sell the Company. In that moment I was burden with responsibilities and I thought I was not capable to stand the difficulties. However, the sons’ work and their optimism brought new lymph. In 1998 the Maroso S.r.l. was established, putting together the experiences of the Maroso section working in the artisan and technological systems sector and the Ismar carpentry. We can count on 25 people working with us and on different external collaborators. We are an important reality in the sector, among the first ten in the province; we contributed a lot both to the territory and the economy. Just think that 34 companies of plant engineering have been set up by our ex workers.
What do you see if you look at the future?
I see that the emerging sector is the technology sector, a very important niche, that requires the personnel constant training and upgrading. I think the high technology will be an important part of our future. We carried out very important works: autoclaves up to 42 metres long for the oil industry, equipments for the marble, systems for the carbon industry, that has been tested and used in the National Research Council laboratories in Padua.
Did you feel the lack of something during your 35 years of work?
In my imaginary of self-made entrepreneur I will say I feel the lack of the condominium, the stable that with its twenty flats assures you an income. I thought it would be my aim, the old age guarantee. However, the company absorbed the investments in its tumultuous development. For me, that I always worked in the building field, it remains a dream that will never come true. I think this could be considered a missing dowel.
Will you do again all the things you did?
Thinking about the initial satisfactions, the willingness, the quantity of work I will say yes. However, in the actual world it would be different. In fact, today it would be more complicated to start. All the models have changed, but I feel protected by my sons, that are doing practice in the financial sector and in the constructions sites. Concerning the sport, my answer is definitely yes; today we are ready not only to continue in the amateur sector, but also to put onto the saddle the new generations, always looking at the real sport values as dilettantism, amusement and the being together. (Interview by Claudio Sarti in Pianezze, 22nd of February 2005).