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Getting Ahead: Middletown florist learned a lot about business as a child
New location has helped revitalize Middletown florist.

I have been working for as long as I can remember. My family owned a pizzeria in downtown Brooklyn for over 30 years. I remember taking the train with my mother when I wasn't in school so we could help my father at the store during the busy time of the day.

Working in a pizzeria with no air conditioning was not fun, especially near the ovens, but this is where I learned to interact with customers and learned to cook. My father was always kidding around with his customers and made them feel at home. The menu was filled with homemade foods that were absolutely delicious.

After a decade my father decided to open another pizzeria in Ramsey, which he named Angelica's after my mother. This pizzeria was grand, with a restaurant that served up to 250 patrons. My parents emigrated from Sicily to the United States in 1958. They loved each other and their family very much and this was seen daily through their hard work and dedication.

When I was in my last year of high school, I was given the opportunity to enroll in a program in which we could alternate between working as interns and attending classes.

My first and last interview was at the Commodity Exchange in downtown Manhattan at the World Trade Center in 1977. I worked there for a year and right before my graduation, my supervisor offered me a full-time position. I accepted and during my 18 years there, I was promoted from runner to phone clerk to supervisor to floor manager and to become the only female broker in my company.

I met a man I knew was "the one" just after a couple of dates. We got engaged in February 1995 and were married the following December. I worked until I had my first child in December 1996. During this time I continued to trade in the busy trading-floor environment we called the "pits."

After my daughter's birth, I stopped working and a year later my second child was born. He has Down syndrome, and two months after he was born he had open-heart surgery. He is our inspirational angel and continues to teach us how to overcome life obstacles. In 2002 our last bundle of joy was born.

My husband and I pondered over our son's life and what he would do when he was older. Since my hobby was making artificial floral arrangements, we decided to open a flower shop in Red Bank. We named it Ana's Floral Garden. Our thinking was our son could get to know the day-to-day function and be an internal floral assistant when he got older.

My first store was in a shopping center and immediately I found the need to master marketing in order to become the neighborhood florist. It is true what they say about trial and error.

My husband and I sacrificed so much money, time and labor. The location was not rewarding, so after five years we purchased a store in Middletown. It was like night and day. The business grew and continues to grow.

I have been at the new location for 4½ years. I love my work, which is also my hobby, and watching my patrons leave with floral arrangements and smiles makes my day.