Nancy Carastro and her husband opened Carastro TV 46 years ago, and the business, now run by her two sons, still thrives.
By MARTY CLEAR
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2003
SOUTH WESTSHORE -- It's been 20 years since Nancy Carastro retired. But her customers still miss her.
"We have customers from all over the country, and they still ask about her when they call," said her son Doug Carastro.
Forty-six years ago, Mrs. Carastro and her husband, Joe, founded Carastro TV on West Shore Boulevard. She died on Saturday after a prolonged battle with leukemia. She was 82.
Her two sons, Doug and Louis, run the store now. But Doug Carastro says the reason it has survived when most other family-owned television shops have gone under is largely a testament to his mother.
"She and my dad did it all," he said. "My brother and I are just keeping the tradition going."
When the store opened in 1957, Mrs. Carastro intended to be just the bookkeeper and office manager. As the business grew, her husband -- one of the first graduates of Tampa Bay Tech -- started doing more repair work. Mrs. Carastro became the person many customers associated with the business.
"She greeted people when they came in and when they called. She did sales. She did everything but the technical work," Doug Carastro said.
Although she had expertise in bookkeeping, she developed a profound knowledge of the television industry. In fact, her son said she was something of a visionary.
When Mrs. Carastro heard that Mitsubishi was going to start manufacturing televisions, she courted the company, and her store became the first licensed Mitsubishi television dealer in Florida. Even though virtually no one had heard of Mitsubishi TVs, which were sold under the even more obscure MGA brand, Mrs. Carastro recognized the quality of the televisions and the company.
Today, Carastro TV still sells Mitsubishi exclusively.
Mrs. Carastro lived upstairs from the store with her husband until her death.
"We're a very close family," said Joe Carastro, her husband of 59 years. "One of our sons lives about two blocks away in one direction, and the other lives two blocks the other direction."
Outside of work, Mrs. Carastro was known as an exceptionally kind and generous woman.
"She had an impulse for buying and for giving," her husband said. "She loved to shop. She had dresses in the closet she never even wore."
She often gave gifts to her loved ones.
"She was always buying me long-sleeved shirts," Joe Carastro said. "I told her I don't need long-sleeved shirts; I always wear short sleeves. But she wanted to buy them just to give me something."
"She always put everyone else ahead of herself," Doug Carastro said. "She was always encouraging as a mother. She taught us right from wrong at a very young age."
Despite her generosity and positive attitude, Mrs. Carastro was extremely tough when needed. That became apparent about nine years ago when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
Even though it was a battle she would ultimately lose, her family said she fought it with determination and never gave up hope.
She endured so many blood transfusions that doctors had trouble finding veins. When Tampa doctors said they had exhausted their resources, Mrs. Carastro and her husband flew to Chicago to consult with specialists. At one point, doctors had so much trouble bringing her fever down that they had her lie on a slab of ice.
"She fought hard," her husband said. "She had a will to live."
In addition to her husband and two sons, she is survived by four grandchildren, one great-grandson, two brothers and one sister.