ABOVE THE STORE
Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Doug Carastro can still hum the rumblin’, rambling’ theme song to the iconic, hit T.V. series, Bonanza. Not surprising, since the first T.V. western ever shot in color lived up to its name in the Carastro house.
It was back in the early 60’s, the Carastro’s owned one of the burgeoning gold mines of the Kennedy era: a T.V. sales and repair shop; sort like having a money tree always in bloom in your back yard.
Dial back to 1963. The Carastro’s glass front shop was a landmark on Westshore Blvd. between Euclid and El Prado. Next door was Maria’s pizza parlor, and Sunday nights were a scene right out of “Happy Days”.
NBC had moved Bonanza to Sunday nights at 9pm, rocketing it up the Nielsen ratings charts to #1 on the dial. Sunday night, customers, loaded down with their lawn chairs, lined up at Maria’s for Coke & a pizza pie, then ambled next door, unfolding the chairs and blankets in the parking lot – dozens of them, glued to bonanza playing in “living color” thorough the showroom windows at Carastro’s. Can you say, “Bonanza!”
Doug, and his older brother, Louis watched and worked in all this, growing up in the family business that consumed their father, Joe. He was visionary, carrying America’s top T.V. brands, building a radio tower to keep tabs on his crews in the field, and wrangling the first Mitsubishi dealership in Florida. Between the T.V. show and Tampa’s thunder storms, business was booming (the lighting capital of the world always meant plenty of repair business), and workaholic Joe wanted to bring his home to work.
Over her dead body, wife, Nancy declared. But, kicking and screaming, she finally agreed to give up her hip, contempo dream house so Joe could build a new strip center at the Westshore site, and literally, “live above the store”.
And Nancy got her pound of flesh out of Joe: her new “penthouse” home even larger and more lavish than the old one.
It’s still there today. Glance up above Carastro’s Insurance at the “Nancy Plaza” and you’ll catch a glimpse of the pierced, geometric concrete blocks upstairs. Known as brise soleil, they block the sun while giving privacy and views from the second-floor courtyard hidden beyond.
A broad set of stairs, secured by electronically operated iron gates, ascends to Nancy’s perch: A 60’s pleasuredome, bristling with an oversized walk-in black marble bath, custom tilework, spangly space-age lighting, and expansive rooms for entertaining; sort of a gilded Mambo Italiano.
It’s where a big Italian family met for birthdays, Sunday dinners, Christmas spaghetti and meatballs; never more than a few steps or an elevator ride away from the business that grew to 14,000 customers.
Doug and Louis are Visionaries in their own right: Enough foresight to know the T.V. repair business was going the way of the transistor radio, and the big box stores becoming Goliath to their David. They pushed their children into other business interests, and thrift father’s acumen in real estate, and erecting that radio tower (they have leases with major phone carriers at that site), mean the brothers enjoy a comfortable retirement. For Doug that means keeping a hold on those “Happy Days”: He restores vintage muscle cars in the same area where the crews used to repair T.V.’s. And everything old is new again.