In 1961, I returned to New York after attempting to start a trucking business delivering fruit with my brother Al and brother in law, Dominic Guerriero, which failed due to crop failures in California. I was able to find a job at a low end retail store( a story about this time is in the works) and worked at it till my wife, being tired of California, left suddenly for New York with my two sons, unbeknownst to me. So, once there, I found a job working for a company called First American Natural Fern Co. They had heard about my abilities from their artificial flower wholesale customers in California, and how I had built a small business into a large volume customer of theirs. So First American hired me at $100.00/week, and had me do the same at Bloomingdale’s in Brooklyn, that is, making flower arrangements in it’s Gift Department for their customers who would either bring in their special containers, or buy those available that I made for sale. It was so busy all the time that one day I actually keeled over from exhaustion, and wound up in a hospital. When hired at First American, I was promised by it’s owner, an increase in salary after three months from $100.00/week to $200/week, so when the time came and upon receiving my pay check, and just after my incident at Bloomingdale’s, I asked for that raise. The owner of First American said “Oh no, not yet, but after another 3 months he would give me the raise”. Naturally, being Italian, I blew up as he had broke his promise to me. I told him to get someone else for Bloomingdale’s, cause: ” I quit”. I said it so loud, that he actually flinched and was very frightened, as I walked out.
I went directly to his competitor, Zunino Altman, another Artificial Flower company, larger and owned by Revlon Cosmetics. (Note: After a few days, the son of the owner of First American, called me and asked me to come back at $200.00/week. I said “No thank you, as I’m now working for ZA, and by the way, watch out at Bloomingdale’s.” Since I knew the buyer there and he knew it was me that made his business grow, eventually, ZA became the company now selling Bloomingdale’s.)
When I arrived at Zunino Altman’s showroom, there was two salesmen talking and laughing, so I excused myself and asked to see the owner, as I was looking for a job. Laughingly, they said that there was no jobs available, but just then, a man entered the showroom. He looked at us and said to me: “Aren’t you the young man who works at Bloomingdale’s?” I said yes, and he then asked me into his private office. He then explained that he went to Bloomingdale’s because he had heard of a young man doing outstanding business working there with a new approach at selling arrangements, He asked why I was in his showroom and I explained it all about the owner of First American and his broken promise. He immediately said “Well, you’re hired here and at $200.00/week, and after 3 months I’ll increase your salary, again”.
Zunino Altman (“ZA” as it was called then) and this man, Josh Rothstein, who had faith in me, gave me the opportunity to be who I became. From the first day I started till the day years later when he contracted Alzheimer and completely lost his memory, we became close friends. He allowed me to spread my wings to create a New Flower arrangement division that became very successful, as well as set up a team of designers to teach Flower arranging to all it’s customers. Every day we traveled together in his car to our homes in Scarsdale, New York. “ZA” was actually owned by Revlon who had owned many smaller companies, and each one had to report at an annual meeting to Charles Revson, it’s CEO and owner at his building famously called “666 FIFTH AVE”.
One year, Josh asked me to go to this meeting with him and when we arrived it was filled with the President, Charles Revson, and the Presidents and Vice Presidents of all his companies as well as many of those other executives from Revlon. As the meeting went on, both Josh and I realized that he was being ridiculed about how the company profits were not up to par. Actually, Revson was in the process of selling Zunino Altman to a competitor called J. Markovits Inc. and was playing with Josh, trying to intimidate him into quitting. He actually picked one of the Flower samples we had brought and told Josh to name it. It was a daffodil and Josh said so, but Revson said to all present “OH no it wasn’t, but it was a rose”. He then asked all present in the room to tell him what it was and all yelled “A Rose”. He said to Josh how could you run a flower company if you don’t know the name of a flower. I then stood up and yelled “It is a daffodil and I should know as I’m the designer who creates them”. Everyone in the room was shocked, but I stood my ground and then Josh stood up and said “Sal lets leave this bunch of losers. Naturally he didn’t last a week. After a few very uncomfortable months under a new President assigned by Revson, I got a call from Josh and he asked me to come to work for him at a company he just had bought, called Goldfarb Novelty. Happily I said yes and went directly to the new president told him I was leaving after giving two weeks notice. His name was Irving Bottner, and he was there to distroy the company under orders from Revson, as they wished to write off “ZA” as a big tax loss. He couldn’t believe I would leave and neither did the two salesmen, Ira Klienberg and Bernie Rosenburg, who I had met originally. They too would eventually have to look for jobs at other flower companies. They later worked for my biggest competitors, after I formed my own company, White Knight Adventures. I was able to bring with me The F.W. Woolworth Co’s business, as they knew too I made Artificial Flowers successful at their stores. This set the direction of my eventually starting my own company, White Knight Adventures.