The Migone Business
The story goes that a certain Domenico Migone way a fabric trader...Read all the story of success of the Migone Business and its abily to design and produce luxury candles and scented candles handmade.
The story goes that a certain Domenico Migone was a fabric trader from Genoa in the first half of the 1800s. He made his fortune by marrying a well-to-do woman who died at the age of 101 having borne him 23 children: 14 boys and 9 girls. One of the siblings, Niccolò, a shipowner, arrived in Florence together with his son Eugenio looking for soap and candles. Being a shipowner meant more than just being involved in the war industry: shipowners had to equip their vessels with men and the materials they needed to sail. Niccolò and Eugenio therefore became acquainted with “Giovanni Peri e C.”, a company specialising in the manufacturing and sale of soap founded by Giovanni Peri and Enrico Palazzeschi and located at 9 via del Piaggione. On his death Peri, who did not have children, left the company to his mother, Anna Borracci. Niccolò Migone and Mariano Bizzarri, who had become friends of Peri, came to the woman’s assistance, planning to continue his business. A new company was established on 17 October 1866, conserving the name “Giovanni Peri e C.”. Eugenio Migone was named manager of the company so that he could represent it in all its business activities and interests, buy all necessary raw materials and sell its products. Giovacchino Borracci, brother of the widow, had a daughter of around the same age as Eugenio who had the same name as her aunt: Anna Borracci. The couple married and, as a wedding present, the aunt gave her niece a share in the company. Niccolò did likewise with his son and the newlyweds became partners in the company. On 22 March 1878, Anna and Eugenio had their first child, Giovanni. On 2 April 1880 Niccolò, later known as Nicola, was born. When Anna Borracci, the widow of Peri, died, she left her share in the company to the children, present and future, of her niece. On 28 October 1882 Ernesto, third child of Anna and Eugenio, was born. Born two months premature following the shock caused by a fire in the company, he would have health problems all his life and, despite being registered as an industrialist, he had to be accompanied by a guardian - his brother Ferdinando, born on 22 June 1886. In 1895 partner Mariano Bizzarri announced his wish to leave the company. In 1899, eldest child Giovanni also expressed his desire to leave the business. Father Eugenio therefore decided to also buy out his wife and three other children, becoming the sole owner of the company. In 1904 the plant had a workforce of 10 male workers, 2 women, a boy and 6 girls. The production plants comprised of 6 boilers, 4 presses, a motor and a steam generator. It is believed that Eugenio senior made his fortune by trying to crush Marseille soap, after various attempts coming across the formula for soap powder. In the early 1900s he obtained the exclusive rights in Italy to produce Candor soap powder and Fulgor. Many other products were mixed such as Persil detergent, the soaps Febo, Oliva, Astro, Cavallo, Cetonia, Giglio, Igea, La Fleur, Mirto, Primula and Sublime, Sapomice for domestic use, Laval Shampoo in powder, the Ideale or Sapolina Ultra Forte lye, as well as the Fulgor, Astro, Giglio and Florentia candles and the Stella Polare tea lights. Eugenio died on 13 March 1909 and the factory was renamed “Ditta Industrie Saponi Candele ed affini G. Peri & C. figli di Eugenio Migone successori”. The industrial buildings were located in via Pisana and via del Ponte Sospeso, on the two sides of Villa Capponi‐Tempi, partially on the land that hosted the villa’s garden, in the Pignone district. In 1914 permission was requested to restore some of the rooms, particularly the soap-production department, which housed 3 boilers and a warehouse. Anna Borracci, Eugenio’s wife, died on 23 June 1915. In October 1930 approval was granted for the construction of a warehouse, also at 12 via del Ponte Sospeso, to extend the building where candles and soaps were manufactured.
On 27 December 1930 the company officially passed exclusively into the hands of Nicola, who already managed it, under the name “Industria Ceraria Saponi e Affini Migone Ditta Individuale”. Its head offices also changed, from 22 via del Ponte Sospeso to 132 via Pisana. An eccentric man with a unique character, Nicola had the wording “finalmente soli” (“alone at last”) painted on the glass dome that connected the factory with his private dwellings and fixed a sign to the front door that read: “In this house even the cat is angry”. Ferdinando, who had become deaf following an ear infection, left his job in the factory for safety reasons and became a civil servant. With his severance pay he opened Migone Confetti, a shop that was managed by his wife. In the early 1930s the company ran into trouble. Its luck began to turn again when, in 1935, a cousin, Monsignor Giuseppe Migone, was appointed titular archbishop of Nicomedia and secret almoner to the Pope, firstly Pius XI and later Pius XII. It is thought that as soon as he entered the Vatican he made sure that the Holy See purchased its candles from his relatives’ company. The real manager was Nicola’s wife, Ada, who kept production ticking over with over 30 workers. Her great grandson Filippo described her as having “an atomic brain”. While Ada managed the books and paid the employees, her husband Nicola visited their customers out of town together with his reps in an old Fiat 1100. During the Second World War the factory was sequestered by the German military and forced to produce margarine and lard for Germany. With the sole exception of the Ponte Vecchio, the bridges of Florence were destroyed by German bombs on 4 August 1944. Like the entire left bank of the Arno, Villa Capponi‐Tempi was isolated from the rest of the city. Bombarded like many other buildings near the river, the factory suffered significant damage. The company recommenced its activities over the following years producing candles for homes and the church, soap and tallow, a product obtained by refining animal fat: in the food industry it was in fact used for consumption while in industry it was used as a lubricant and as a component of soap and candles. An intense blue band of adhesive water paper recalling the colour of the blue sash in the iconography of Our Lady of Lourdes was wrapped around the base of the church candles and waxes. This operation was carried out by a number of workers with such speed that it wasn’t possible to follow the work they did with their hands with your eyes. Arranged in order in the boxes, the candles were loaded onto the company cart by the workers, which was then pulled by horses over the Arno via the “Suspension Bridge”. The cart, and later the lorry that distributed the packs, travelled around the city serving the biggest churches of Florence, including the Duomo, and the city’s market traders. The products were also sold, until 1993, in the shop at 37/r via Condotta owned by Anna, Nicola senior’s eldest child. It was located close to the weekly farmers’ market held up until the 1960s between via Condotta and via de’ Cerchi, in the heart of Florence. In 1949, Eugenio, Nicola’s fourth child and only son, inherited the company following his father’s death on Christmas Day night. Authoritarian and strict, Eugenio was forced to contend with the post-war period and reconstruction. Production was industrialised with German machinery of proven reliability and expanded to research more elegant products. On 4 November 1966 like the rest of Florence, the candle factory was affected by the flood and submerged by more than a metre of water. The rooms, machinery and systems were no longer usable, forcing the family to move the premises, in 1972, to 26 via Ilio Barontini in Scandicci, an industrial district a few kilometres from Florence. On 8 November 1968 another company was established for the culturing and refinement of animal fats, the production of meat meal, the manufacturing of candles and the wholesale trading of raw materials for the chemical and rubber industry. At the same time, the company stopped producing soap. In 1970 Ada died and the premises of the old candle factory were purchased by La Fondiaria S.p.a. A supermarket was opened on the same land between 1972 and 1973 and in the autumn of 1973 was leased to Supermarkets Italiani S.p.a., which opened the 11th Esselunga store in Tuscany. The structure and appearance of the building was much the same as it is now: the ground floor car park could be accessed from both via Pisana and via del Ponte Sospeso The wisteria still present in the supermarket car park was planted in the early 1900s by Ada, the wife of Nicola senior, with the help of Giovanni Moroni, one of the employees, as a good luck charm. When the land was sold the plant was protected by a clause preventing it from being touched. In 2006, the factory moved to 23 via Sangallo in Sambuca, in the Municipality of Tavarnelle val di Pesa, near Florence. Named “Industria Ceraria Migone” and now focusing on candles, the company is managed by Nicola Migone and his daughters Francesca and Sabrina, the great-great granddaughters of Eugenio Migone senior and Anna Borracci. The production technology has developed over the years, adapting to new technologies and the needs of the market. The production of tallow at the Scandicci site ended in 1996 and the refinement of animal fat and the production of meat meal were discontinued. The company is focused on the sale of candles and accessories as well as that of raw materials for the chemical and rubber industry. In addition to the production of candles for the church, the company has increasingly developed the sector of scented and personalised candles. Without abandoning its traditions, Cereria Migone has expanded its product range to meet the needs of its customers and partners, even developing its own range of candles. The wax seal has been its trademark since it began trading. In the early 1900s it was made of adhesive water paper and was used on candles and supplies of raw materials. Today it has been reintroduced and adapted for the new “Migone 1866” line.