The members of Visalia’s Enrico Caruso Lodge of the Sons of Italy will be hosting an open-invitation ceremony at the lodge Sunday, October 20, renaming the garden area at the lodge to honor the outstanding lifetime achievements of Visalia native Pete Giotta. The featured speaker for the event is Visalia Mayor Amy Shuklian.
Giotta, 83, now retired, was a powerful voice in Visalia’s business community for over 50 years and served for 16 years as lodge president for the Italian/ American fraternal organization. As lodge president, Giotta created an activities program that featured regular dances, seasonal parties and special dinners, all open to the general public, and intended to raise awareness and interest in the lodge among members of the city’s large Italian/American community.
Giotta’s efforts and tireless energy paid off as the lodge set off on an extended period of rapidly expanding membership rolls which saw membership in the lodge peak out at a little over 700 members and making it the largest Sons of Italy lodge in the entire country.
After serving in the Korean War, Giotta returned to Tulare County and married his long-time girlfriend, the former Carmaline Toledo of Tipton. He formed a business partnership with his older brother, Vito, who had started a grocery store in Ivanhoe which he called Sav Mor Market. The Giotta’s worked well together, expanded the store to 18,000 square feet and soon introduced self-serve gas pumps to Tulare County for the first time.
As lodge president, Pete convinced the lodge membership that they needed a much larger facility which could be built by utilizing the skills of the members themselves. Giotta solicited donations of materials from the community, worked tirelessly both day and night on the new building, and even donated to the lodge his one-third ownership of the land chosen for the new lodge. The project was completed in a year, stood four times larger than the former lodge, and the total cost was one-fourth of the cost for a comparable building.
Giotta’s most high profile business undertaking in the community was the highly successful chain of “Git ‘n Go” convenience stores he developed from scratch during the 1960s. Pete installed managers in the stores who followed a plan developed by Giotta that was designed to enable them in becoming the very grateful owners of the store they managed. Soon there were several Git ‘n Go stores in Tulare, a couple in Farmersville and one in Exeter to go with the six or seven already open in Visalia.
“Pete is about the most kind, generous and gentle man you are ever likely to meet,” said Steve Luisi. Luisi, who has known Giotta since 1956, was installed as the manager of Steve’s Git ‘n Go at the corner of Walnut and Giddings avenues, and soon went on to own the business that still bears his name.
Giotta invested in open land around the city; land on which he developed the Key West Shopping Center at the corner of Akers and Golden streets. He was a partner in the development of the many homes and apartments which surround the commercial center which is anchored by a Save Mart store.
For those planning to attend the ceremony which will begin in the garden area at 12:00 p.m. on the 20th, the ceremony will be followed by a luncheon inside the lodge at 1:00 p.m. The Sons of Italy Hall is located at 4211 West Goshen Avenue. The ceremony and luncheon are open and free to the public.