In the early 1910s, Salvatore Viviano (1876-1959) ventured to Detroit to expand the family’s macaroni empire. Salvatore ventured to Detroit before settling in Carnegie, PA and opening Vimco.[i] The company transferred to his brothers and nephew of the same name. There is also evidence of Vito Viviano beginning an operation, Vivison, in the Eastern Market area of Detroit in 1917 or 14.[ii] [iii] A 1956 article explains the Vivison Macaroni Company and Vivano Brother Macaroni Company as companion firms, which is the clearest explanation of the ventures.[iv]
In 1914, three-year-old Johnnie Viviano, son of a wealthy macaroni manufacturer named Salvatore Viviano, was kidnapped. This marks the first mention of the Viviano macaroni legacy in the city of Detroit.
On Saturday, May 2, three-year-old Johnnie (also reported as Sam, possibly misprint), was kidnapped by three men from his home. A playmate saw the men take the boy down an alley, which resulted in a search throughout the neighborhood. As the search went on, police seemed suspicious of father Sam Viviano, who was adamant that the police wait until the kidnappers submitted a ransom.[v] Within a week, Johnnie was returned home, found wandering the neighborhood by a patrolman. An undisclosed amount of ransom was paid for the boy’s return.[vi] Twenty-five-year-old Vito Ronda was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping Johnnie.[vii]
(Note: The author cannot confirm which Salvatore Viviano was the father as neither Salvatore has a son named John/Johnnie/Giovanni with an aligning birthdate).
The S. Viviano Macaroni Company found success in Detroit by 1919, along with its cousin companies throughout the Midwest. In three years, the company had tripled its output to 20,000 pounds of macaroni per day, still struggling to keep up with demand.[viii]
However, by 1922, the Viviano Macaroni Manufacturing Company was up for sale. At that time, the factory was 42,000 square feet, boasting a sprinkler system, steam heating plant, and electric elevator.[ix]
The Detroit venture resurfaces in 1944 when Salvatore Viviano found the factory watchman beaten and stabbed to death. The watchman had been providing a homeless, previous factory employee a place to stay in the factory. However, the homeless man became paranoid about being discovered by the police and federal government, seeking out the watchman’s gun, and shooting him in the process.[x] The slain watchman was found in the packing room of the factory by police. The victim had made his way to the telephone to call for help, but collapsed before the call could be made. A spaghetti packer was in the building at the same time and was able to hide from the assailant.[xi]
Misfortune followed the Detroit enterprise into the 1940s. After not getting along with the family, Sam (1907 - ?) was removed from the macaroni business in 1945. Two years late, in a move of desperation, Sam robbed a shoe store. He was swiftly arrested for stealing $58 and assaulting the store owner.[xii] Sam was found guilty and put on a five-year probation.[xiii]
By 1948, Gaetano Viviano had embarked on a venture as a wholesale grocer and wine importer. However, he was found guilty of evading taxes for two years, a total of $435,000.[xiv] He was sentenced to 3 years and a $30,000 fine, in addition to collecting back taxes.[xv] Additionally, the company went bankrupt and was reorganized. John Viviano was named co-trustee of the firm with attorney Joe Radom.[xvi] The company also tried to circumvent authorities in 1956 when they were convicted of violating food pure laws.[xvii] Beetles and moss was found in their machinery, which the management claimed was brought into the plant by accident along with the semolina flour.
In 1956, Peter Viviano (1902-1987) was shot by a watchman at the Prince Macaroni Company.[xviii] However, when first asked, Peter said he was shot by accident at his own factory. In the hours following, the Prince watchman described a man similar to Peter who tried to enter the Prince plant through a second-story window. Specific details of why Peter was breaking into the Prince plant remained unclear. However, the Viviano Company had recently lost a lucrative business deal to Prince. Peter was treated at the hospital and released within a day.[xix] Ironically, Prince would go on to assume the Viviano Macaroni Company in 1966.
By the 1970s, though absorbed by Prince, the Viviano family continued to be involved in the macaroni business. Bill Viviano, grandson of Vito Viviano and son of Carl Viviano, assumed the role of Vice President and General Manager of the Detroit Prince factory. This plant was state-of-the-art. Computerized systems produced 900,000 pounds of pasta a week in 100 varieties and shapes.[xx]