Moving Business Spans Three Generations
Robert Russo, who runs 78-year-old American Movers, in Long Branch, has continued to operate the business basically the same way as his father and grandfather did.
By William Conroy Press Business Writer
The business started with a horse and wagon on the bank of the Navesink River in Red Bank. Frank Saggese used to meet the boats as they docked, pick up groceries and other goods, and deliver them to houses in the borough. The year was 1916.
The path away from the dock was steep enough that sometimes, when the load was heavy, Saggese would get out and help his horse by pushing the wagon from behind.
Soon a truck replaced the immigrant’s horse and wagon. Before long, Saggese Trucking and Storage had a few trucks to transport goods.
Robert Russo, who runs American Movers today and is the grandson of the late Frank Saggese, is still doing basically the same thing his grandfather did 78 years ago, only on a larger scale.
The stories about Frank Saggese come from Russo’s father, Andrew, a baker who joined the business after he married Saggese’s daughter, Mary, in 1938. Andrew Russo was born near Naples, Italy, the same area in which his father-in-law was born. His family moved to the United States when he was 8 years old.
Andrew Russo, 80, remains active in the business he took over when Saggese died in 1953. Father and son refresh each other’s memory about the changes and dates in the company’s history as they recall it for a visitor to the vast warehouse on Ocean Boulevard, near Broadway, in Long Branch.
American Movers uses the 10,000-square-foot warehouse for storage, which has become a significant part of the business.
Some of the items in the tall packing crates have been on the premises for years. It surprises Russo sometimes how long people will store something. Last year, American Movers took over the storage inventory of another company that shut down. A woman who had been storing some furniture with that company since the 1950s called him to make sure he could continue holding onto it for her.
“My philosophy is if you can get along without it for two years, you don’t need it,” he said. He shrugged and smiled. He will do what the customer wants.
Summer is the busiest season for movers. American Movers does 60 percent of its volume between late May and early September because parents prefer to move in the summer so the school year is not disrupted, Russo said.
One piece of advice that Russo has for people who are about to move is to book the mover two to four weeks in advance. “If it’s less than two weeks, you stand a chance of not getting a mover”.
Another is to avoid moving, if you can, near the first or last of the month, when many moves are made as leases begin and end. Russo also recommends making sure that the mover you hire is licensed. That means the company has the proper insurance and experience, he said. Movers’ licenses are issued by the state Department of Consumer Affairs.
Physical condition and endurance are more important for a mover than strength, he said.
“You can’t be a weakling, but you don’t need to be a weight lifter,” Russo said. “Agility is moreimportant. You need to move quickly. How easily can you move a dresser around a 180-degree stairway?”
Russo is dressed to move quickly in sneakers, jeans and a T-shirt. Does he still do any of the physical work himself?
“I wear many hats,” teh 47-year-old said. “I do what needs to be done. If it comes to moving furniture, I move furniture.”
Perhaps the toughest part of the job is moving someone who is being evicted, Russo said. The evictee is not always pleased to see a moving van he did not request pull up at his door.
One such person once greeted Andrew Russo at the door with a shotgun on his shoulder. “I’m not moving,” the man said. “Do you have a problem with that?”
Andrew Russo told the man he had no problem with that and left. The landlord reached an agreement with the man later concerning the move, without any gunplay.
Russo is active in promoting the interests of movers. He is a member and past president of the Monmouth and Ocean Movers Association and currently treasurer of the New Jersey Warehousement and Movers Association.
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