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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Ybor staple Agliano's fish market closing doors after 90 years
A year after owner Buster Agliano's death, his widow decides it's time to get out of the family business.
By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published May 11, 2005
TAMPA - Buster Agliano used to tell his wife and daughters that selling seafood was a job too fishy for women to do.
"I have four daughters, and all four of them always used to say, "Dad, why don't you teach us?"' said his wife Mirtha Agliano. "His reply was, "This is not a business for a woman. Forget it.' "
Mr. Agliano died in his sleep at age 69 on April 11, 2004, after a two-year battle with cancer, leaving the Ybor City family business of 90 years - S. Agliano & Sons Fish Co. - to the women in his life.
Mrs. Agliano said Tuesday she has decided to close its doors for good. The seafood market's last day of operation will be May 27.
"Things just aren't the same," Mrs. Agliano, 67, said Tuesday, "He always told me I should deal with everything with my head and not my heart. I really don't know how to run the fish market on my own."
Mr. Agliano was the third generation to operate the family business, which was started around the turn of the 20th century by his grandfather, Sebastian Agliano, who caught fish and sold them door to door. Around 1915 the elder Agliano opened a store, and it moved to its current location at 1821 E Seventh Ave. in 1926. When people didn't have money, Sebastian Agliano extended credit, a tradition upheld by his grandson Buster, whose formal given name was also Sebastian.
Buster Agliano also gained a reputation for dishing more than just the freshest catch of the day. He dished politics, too.
"It was a place for gathering for politics back in the '40s and '50s, when there was no big money," said Charlie Miranda, a former Tampa City Council member and close friend of Buster Agliano. "Back then, you went to the cigar factories, the farmers' market and the fish market when you wanted to meet people."
While the weekdays usually saw business as usual with the market dealing mostly in wholesale, Saturdays often brought judges, City Council members and sometimes members of Congress stopping by to get advice from Mr. Agliano. On occasion, there would be a fish fry out back.
"That was the old way of doing politics," said Miranda, "when you didn't need a contract. All you needed was a handshake."
Miranda called Agliano's "one of the pillars of the community" when he was growing up. There was a place in Ybor City where live chickens were sold to be eaten fresh later that night. And of course, the fish market.
"The thing that I will miss most about it is the thing that I lost since April of last year, which was Buster," Miranda said. "You can replace the fish market, but you can't replace Buster."
Richard Fernandez, 52, started working at the market in 1991. He had married one of the Aglianos' daughters, and became manager of the store about the time Mr. Agliano became ill and had to have a kidney removed, he said.
There wasn't much time to learn the business before he found himself in charge, Fernandez said.
"I was only there for two to three months, then I kinda got thrown to the wolves," he said. "It's been a very pleasurable experience."
Fernandez and his wife split up in 2002. He said he agreed with Mrs. Agliano's decision to close the business and sell the property, but it will be a loss to the community.
"We've always stressed quality and service, and people are going to miss us," Fernandez said.
Mrs. Agliano acknowledged that Ybor City has changed and said she welcomes it.
"It's sad, and at the same time it isn't, because we were there longer than most people are," she said. "I guess that the age that I'm at and the fact that he's no longer here ... I think this is probably what he would want me to do."