The IAMLA Announces Major Gift From
The Flamminio Family
The Board of Directors of the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles is pleased to announce its newest Founding Family, the Flamminio family of Malibu, California. The Flamminio family joined the Museum’s elite cadre of donors last month. 

In preparation for the Museum’s opening, the IAMLA’s Founding Family designation was created in 2013 as a way to recognize individuals and families whose dedication, generosity and achievements make them ripe for distinction on the IAMLA’s Donor Wall and other Naming Recognition Opportunities in the Museum.
L-R: Richard, Melanie, Anthony and Amber Flammino.
Richard and Melanie Flamminio
IAMLA Founding Family

The seven Aeolian Islands, including Lipari, Stromboli, Salina and Filicudi, located on the northern shore of Sicily, are among the most exquisite in the Tyrrhenian Sea. A popular destination for vacationers, the archipelago became an UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000. The islands’ serene beauty makes it easy to forget the bitter years when the Aeolian economy, on the verge of collapse, forced thousands to either leave or face starvation.
The Filicudi coastline.

 Following Italy’s unification in the 1860s, Southern Italy’s economy declined, as new industries emerged in Northern Italy and economic policies detrimental to the South, including punitive taxation, commenced. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, phylloxera, or sap-sucking insects, destroyed the viticulture industry in Italy, including that of the Aeolian Islands. The ensuing hardships motivated 50% of Aeolians, approximately 10,000 people, to emigrate. The Quadaras of Salina and the Uminas of Filicudi were two families that came to the United States during that era, ready for a new beginning. 

In 1910, Katherine Quadara and Bartolo Umina met while working at the Waltham Watch Factory near Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1854, the Waltham Watch Factory became the first company to mass-produce a complete watch in a single location. While Massachusetts was home to a large Italian population, Bartolo, who had recently immigrated from Filicudi, could scarcely believe that sitting across from him on the assembly line was Katherine, a young woman whose family hailed from the neighboring island.   After a brief courtship, Katherine and Bartolo married and were soon blessed with two daughters: Catherine and Marguerite.

 

The Waltham Watch Factory, early 1900's.
Katherine and Bartolo on their wedding day.

On the eve of World War I, Bartolo and Katherine, or “Katie” as she was often called, moved to the predominantly Italian neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, where Bartolo’s brother, Gaetano “Tommy,” owned a produce market. As partners, Bartolo and Tommy expanded Umina Brothers Produce to meet the demands of the neighborhood’s burgeoning immigrant community. 

Umina Brothers original location in Brooklyn.

At age 27, Tommy was drafted into the United States military and sent to France. A member of the 77th Infantry Division, Tommy participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the largest battle in U.S. military history, which stretched along the entire Western Front and involved 1.2 million American soldiers. Lasting 47 days, the conflict was part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that helped bring the war to an end. On October 13, 1918, just 29 days before the Armistice, Private Umina was killed in action and buried in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. 

Private Gaetano "Tommy" Umina (L) and his resting site.

With the war over, Bartolo sent for his remaining siblings in Italy: Steve, Tony, and John, and Umina Brothers Produce continued to grow. In 1922, the brothers bid farewell to New York’s bitter winters and miserable summers and relocated to Los Angeles. Bartolo, wife Katie, and daughters Catherine and Marguerite, lived in East Los Angeles. Umina Brothers re-established itself as a humble corner market before brothers Bartolo, John, and Tony obtained a space at the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market on 8th Street in 1926. In the early days, Umina Brothers primarily sold locally grown citrus and wine grapes; it would become one of several Italian-owned wholesalers that would revolutionize the Los Angeles market. 

Top: Tony Umina in front of an early Umina Brothers truck.
Middle: Catherine Umina.
Bottom: Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market.
Rich Text Area

Bartolo and Katie were active in Los Angeles’ Italian community; they co-founded a local branch of the Order of Sons of Italy in America and supported organizations that provided aid to Italian immigrants. While visiting friends in San Pedro, a port district south of Los Angeles that is home to a large Italian community, Bartolo and Katie’s daughter, Catherine, met Peter Flamminio. Pete was a sailor who had arrived in the United States from Abruzzo, Italy at age ten. As a child, he performed backbreaking labor in the coal mines of Pennsylvania before joining the Navy. Catherine and Pete were married at St. Peter’s Italian Church in Los Angeles; their wedding reception was likely held at the Italian Hall. Peter and Catherine subsequently had three children, Le Donna, Selvina, and Richard, and the family continued to reside in East Los Angeles.

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Top: Catherine Umina and Pete Flamminio's wedding.
Middle L: Umina, Flamminio and Quadara family members on the
occasion of Catherine and Pete's wedding.
Middle R: LeDonna, Selvina and Richard Flamminio.
Bottom: A meeting of Katie and Bartolo's chapter of the Sons of Italy.

In the Flamminio household, family extended beyond the nuclear unit. Richard recalls the impact that his aunt Adeline had on his life. “She looked out for me like I was her son, there was always something wonderful cooking on her stove; her house was my second home.” Adeline practiced many Italian traditions: she canned tomatoes and other vegetables, made pasta from scratch, and sewed her own sheets. The Flamminio family attended countless events in the Italian community, such as celebrations at Casa Italiana and the famous carnivals at Montebello Stadium where wrestlers such as Michele Leone and the father-son duo, Gino and Leo Garibaldi, performed. While the Flamminio family honored their Italian heritage, the family’s loyalty remained passionately to the United States.  LeDonna Flamminio recalls, “We did not speak Italian during the War because we were Americans.” 

Adeline Flamminio DeAngelo and her husband.

When Bartolo passed away in 1951, the business continued to prosper under the direction of John and Tony Umina. On many mornings, Tony Umina would awaken his godson, Richard, before sunrise and take him to work at the produce market, where Richard would help his uncles unpack crates and fill orders. Richard frequently accompanied them to the vineyards of Cucamonga, California, where they would pick up enormous truckloads of wine grapes. Crawling with spiders, laden with sticky, sappy juice, and emitting an unpleasant odor, this was a task of which Richard was never fond. Upon his graduation from Garfield High School, Richard served in the U.S. Air Force for four years.  While in the Air Force, he enrolled at Yale University and studied Chinese, before returning to Los Angeles and completing his studies at California State University, Los Angeles as a history major. 

Top: Richard Flamminio with his uncle Tony Umina.
Bottom: Richard Flamminio, after assuming leadership of Umina Brothers.

After twenty illustrious years, in 1971, Tony and John decided to retire.  Richard’s grandmother, Katie Umina, now weakened by age and illness, beckoned her grandson to her bedside. “Richie,” she said, “You can’t let this business go. You have to take it over.” After growing up in the produce industry, where the work days begin in the middle of the night, the last thing that Richard, who was in his twenties, wanted was to assume control of the business. Nevertheless, to fulfill the promise he made to his grandmother, Richard purchased the company from his uncles. Through Richard’s efforts, and those of the Umina team, the company continued to expand from primarily a citrus firm to a full-line produce house offering all types of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

In 1979, Richard married Melanie Eastburn from Santa Paula, California. Melanie is an accomplished vocalist, who performs under the name M.E. Paige. The Flamminios soon welcomed two children, Amber and Anthony, to the family, both of whom are involved in the company today. 

 

Richard and Melanie Flamminio, shortly after their wedding.

By 1986, Umina Brothers had outgrown its 7th Street Market location, and Richard decided to relocate the company to the newly constructed wholesale market in downtown Los Angeles, a decision that enabled Umina Brothers to grow even larger. In 1989, an export division of Umina Brothers was founded, which allowed the company to increase procurement and sales in markets worldwide. By 2004, sales exceeded $30 million. What began as a humble produce store in 1914 exists today as a leader in the wholesale and export markets of fresh fruits and vegetables, sourcing products from Chile, Mexico, South Africa, and the United States, and exporting to Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Africa. While Umina Brothers currently boasts a staff of 100 and sales over $100 million, it proudly remains family-owned, ever cognizant of the struggles of its founders. 

Bartolo Umina's Declaration of Intention and petition to become a U.S. citizen. 

In addition to serving as Treasurer for the Italian American Museum of Los Angeles, Richard serves as President of the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Mart. Richard and Melanie are involved with Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where they reside, as well as the Ronald McDonald House and other charities. Richard is deeply committed to the success of the IAMLA and passionate about preserving the culture and traditions of the Italians who helped shape Southern California. 

Become A Founding Family

Parties interested in becoming a Founding Family should contact Marianna Gatto, Executive Director of the IAMLA.
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