By Ron Hayes
DELRAY BEACH — On the wall of the Prudential insurance office where he worked, John Scalzo Jr. kept a calendar adorned with a lush photo of the Bahia Honda bridge in the Florida Keys.
Deep in a snowy New Jersey winter, he would ponder that calendar, dreaming of a new life somewhere warm and sunny.
In 1989, Mr. Scalzo quit his job, talked his best friend, Dan Mehler, into quitting too, and moved his wife and three children to Delray Beach.
The childhood friends bought a small, unimpressive produce store at 2708 N. Federal Highway and went to work chasing that dream.
For the past 23 years, they were “Johnny Mango” and “Danny Mango” to countless loyal customers who dropped by for fresh produce, exotic plants, antique furniture and ceramic art.
Mr. Scalzo died Aug. 30 at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, where he was being treated for pneumonia exacerbated by scarring of the lung tissue. He was 59 and lived in Boca Raton.
“He started with simple produce, then added a deli and Italian groceries,” the store’s manager, Bradley Frey, wrote in a memorial posted on Johnny Mangos’ Facebook page. “Before long, he started carrying cut flowers and did Christmas trees and pumpkins for the holidays. He added plants to the picture, then orchids. He always had to change things around, always improving.”
But credit for the store’s success belonged to Mr. Scalzo’s warm personality as much as his hard work.
“He was never at a loss for words,” Danny Mango recalled. “He could start a conversation with anyone, perfectly comfortable talking with strangers. He knew how to greet people.”
Danny Mango still chokes up as he remembers the business partner he’d known since they were children. Easing back into work has not been easy, he said, because a copy of Mr. Scalzo’s obituary is posted by the cash register.
“We have customers who’ve been coming since we first opened, more family than friends,” Danny Mango said. “They see Johnny’s passed, they start crying and we all start crying.”
For many, it may be the first time they knew John Scalzo Jr. To them, he was always “Johnny Mango.”
“We worked many hours, for many a year, for little money,” Danny Mango said. “Within the last three or four years, we’ve really started being successful, and the terrible thing is, he won’t be here to enjoy it.”
In addition to his best friend and business partner, Mr. Scalzo is survived by his wife, Lorrayne, of Boca Raton; twin daughters, Danielle Hyatt and Nicole Scalzo, both of Boca Raton; and a son, Jarett Scalzo, of Los Angeles; his brother and sister, Joseph Scalzo of Margate and Kathy Scalzo of Boca Raton; and three grandchildren.
A funeral service was held Sept. 4 at Lorne & Sons Funeral Home in Delray Beach.