MUSEOWEB dell'economia varesina

Zoni Spa

Historical Profile

From the origins of the company to 1949

In 1941, Francesco Zoni, along with his partner, Marco Ferrari, took over the scrap recovery business of his brother in law, Egisto Franzosi, at no. 2 Via Adamoli in Varese.

This event gave rise to the limited partnership "Ferrari Marco & C": Ferrari was the general partner, while Franzosi and Zoni were limited partners. The recovery of ferrous materials was of particular importance during the war, as it helped to satisfy the needs of the territory's various engineering enterprises involved in the war effort.

In September of 1943, Francesco Zoni was deported to Germany and the company, whose business dealings were quite limited, was carried forward by Marco Ferrari. After returning from captivity in September of 1945, Francesco Zoni became a general partner and his name was included within the company name. In 1946, he married Gemma Bottinelli, the daughter of an important wine merchant in Varese. His wife later became involved in the business, handling its book keeping and organization.

The following year, Egisto Franzosi passed away and his shares were sold to the wives of the two other partners: Giacomina Boscaglia and Gemma Bottinelli.

The scrap recovery and hardware business was later accompanied by trade in ferrous materials and steel products of all kinds, which were in particularly high demand during the post war reconstruction period.

Francesco Zoni even recovered tram tracks, which were used for civil and industrial rebuilding efforts. After making contact with Locatelli ossigeno in Milan, the first Italian distributer of oxygen and compressed gases, he later became their dealer for the Varese area. Since gas cylinders of this type were used for welding, they were particularly important for construction work and their sales increased rapidly.

From the 1950s to 1982

The company underwent intense development during the fifties and sixties. The scrap metal recovery business was gradually abandoned with the increase in steel product sales to civil construction contractors, steel structure manufacturers, mechanical workshops and industries. The market's expansion led to an increase in competition, but thanks to its ability to renew and diversify its products, the company had no trouble maintaining its market share.

During this period, the company began a collaboration effort with Dalmine for the resale of seamless pipes for water and gas. In 1955, the Zoni family took control of the company: Marco Ferrari and his wife, Giacomina Boscaglia, both sold their shares to Zoni and the company name was changed to "Zoni Francesco e C. sas". The family invested in the enterprise and its capital rose to 100 million lire in 1964. The increased sales brought about an improvement in logistics: the company hired drivers and the first Guzzi auto-rickshaw of the 1950s was replaced by a number of trucks which were more suitable for transporting ferrous materials.

Above all, in 1964, the company headquarters was moved to a more spacious and well-equipped location on Viale Belforte (with bridge cranes and automatic weighing machines). The company had about eight permanent employees, since it relied upon external labourers for loading and unloading truck trailers, particularly those provided by the company Carovana Facchini.

During the 1970s, the company expanded its business activities to include the provinces of Como and Novara. It began marketing new products, including mesh produced by Orsogril in Cantù, which it distributed initially in the province of Varese. The company's continued growth led to the need for additional help, and it was soon joined by Luciano and Mergherita, the children of Francesco and Gemma: the former became involved in the company's administration, while the latter was taken on as an assistant. Luciano was a law graduate and Margherita was an accountant. The introduction of VAT drove the company to mechanize and, later, automate its book keeping procedures, which could no longer be carried out manually by the mother.

In the 1980s, Luciano Zoni regulated the payment system, which was still based on fiduciary relationships with customers, automated the management of the warehouse and the orders and began hiring the company's first third party sales people in order to present its new products. During the same period, Luciano became an active participant at Assofermet meetings (the National Association of Ferrous Metal Traders).

From 1983 to the present

In 1983, in forecast of further expansion, Zoni became a joint stock company, while maintaining its family management (in fact, even Margherita Zoni joined the board of directors). The foreseen expansion, however, did not materialize due to a serious accident, which forced Luciano Zoni to cease his activities with the company for a number of years. After having surpassed this critical phase, the company was able to keep pace with the constantly changing market by becoming a wholesaler for major players in the industry and increasingly expanding the scope of its business purpose, which even went on to include a paint division in 1988. This step was aimed at meeting the growing necessity to offer its customers a product which was as near to finished as possible, thus increasing the services that it offered. Following this strategy, the company graduated towards semi-processing services, which also required collaboration with external suppliers. During these years, the company's longevity was also recognized by the city of Varese by enrolling it in the "Albo d'oro" (the golden register) and by awarding it a gold medal in 1991. Luciano also assumed a post as councillor for the trade association. In the year 2000, the company had 16 employees. In 2001, Gemma Bottinelli became chairwoman of the board of directors, leaving the administrative management to her daughter, Margherita, and the logistics management to her son, Luciano. Today, Zoni still pursues a policy of researching innovative products, such as prefabricated fences and new integrated structural systems for gates. In 2005, a paint factory was opened in the same building owned by the enterprise on Viale Belforte. The company is currently working to integrate the family's third generation, a factor which bodes well for the continuity of the family business.