One little town in Italy has put its mark on the lives of thousands of Winnipeg families who bought a new home over the last half century.
That's because four of the city's home-building companies -- A & S Homes, Gino's Homes, Artista Homes and KDR Design Builders Inc. -- trace their roots back to the southern Italian town of San Roberto.
A & S, Gino's and Artista were all founded by men who grew up in San Roberto and immigrated to Winnipeg in the 1960s.
And KDR was founded by the daughter and son-in-law of Gino's founder Gino Cotroneo.
Joe Bova -- another native of San Roberto and co-founder of one of the province's largest construction companies, Manshield Construction -- pointed out the connection while pondering recently why so many Italian men who came here in the 1960s and '70s wound up in the construction business.
Bova's theory is many of them arrived with little money, and back then, you didn't need a lot of capital to start up a small construction company.
"All you needed was your skills and your tools and a willingness to work hard," Bova said.
It was Gino Cotroneo who got the ball rolling. And ironically, when he arrived in 1967, he had no intention of staying, according to his son Robert Cotroneo.
Robert, who now runs Gino's Homes with his brother Frank, said their father had a successful construction company back in San Roberto and only came to Winnipeg because his fiancee and her family had immigrated here.
"His idea was to come here, get married and return to Italy (with his new bride, Angelina). But I guess my mother had other plans," Robert said with a chuckle.
Somehow she convinced their father to stay, and he teamed up with one of Robert's uncles, Antonio Spezzano, to launch G & A Homes.
Gino and Antonio remained partners for seven or eight years, Robert said, before deciding to branch out on their own. Antonio started A & S Homes, and Gino started Gino's Homes.
Another uncle, Antonio Cotroneo, started …