JULY 2018 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 19
AMERICA’S FIRST FAMILY OF FIREWORKS
Arab Emirates, 2018 began when
Christopher launched the largest
aerial firework shell in history, a
5-foot-diameter projectile weighing
more than 2,400 pounds. A team
from the Guinness Book of World
Records was on hand to validate both
Gulf State records, as were countless
It’s very much a family business.
Sister Lauren handles photography
and promotional tasks for the family
business and a cousin, Corey,
34, focuses on the human resource
side, helping administer a company
with more than 750 pyrotechnicians
working around the globe. The three
young people are prominent members
of the rising sixth generation,
a rare experience for a family business.
Phil also heads a sister corporation,
Pyrotechnique by Grucci, which
sells munitions-testing services to
From its base on LI’s South Shore,
the company has spread around the
world. Grucci maintains regional offices
in Doha, Qatar; Dubai; Liuyang
City in Hunan Province, China; and
St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Domestically, it has offices in Oahu,
Virginia, for defense
contracting and manufacturing;
Vegas, in support of
the company’s growing
With nearly 170
years of pyrotechnic
success, the Gruccis
are Bellport’s most
Uncle Felix, known
hereabouts as Butch,
served a term in
Congress from 1996
through 2000. Various
active in community
local businesses. Phil
and Debbie enjoy the
fare at several local
restaurants, and own
on Bellport Lane;
the popular Carla
Marla’s Ice Cream
Parlor and two other
small retailers are tenants. Through
their family foundation, the Gruccis
donate pyrotechnical evenings to
several nonprofit organizations,
including the Boys and Girls Club
of Suffolk County and the local Boy
“They’re kind and polite people,
courteous commercial landlords, and
ggenerous,” says Bellport Mayor Ray
Fell. “It’s amazing to think this company
got started in Bellport and now
does business around the world.”
When their complicated schedules
allow, the Gruccis like to kick back at
home. Phil, 55, and Debbie, 54, met
with Long Island Press contributing
editor Warren Strugatch at their
stately bayside home for a conversation
about how they met, life as a family
business, and how they discovered
the 8-bedroom, 13-bathroom, 9-fireplace
house built in 1917. Excerpts are
Warren Strugatch: How did you
Phil Grucci: We met in English
class at Longwood High School. This
is a historical fact!
Debbie Grucci: I was born and
raised in the Bronx. I remember the
first time he brought me home to
meet his family. There was this small
table in his grandparents’ home with
maybe 25 people gathered around.
Phil was the golden boy in his family.
PG: Come on!
DG: Well, you were! They looked at
me like: Is this person good enough
WS: How did he propose?
DG: We had dated for eight years,
so he had time to make up his mind.
We were heading out to East Hampton
for a fireworks display by George
WS: Was this the one at Boys
DG: Yes, the one Tony Duke organized
every year. As we were heading
out, he said: ‘Why don’t we go to
Queens and pick up a ring?’
PG: Debbie, you know I would
never propose on the 4th of July.
WS: Where did you get started as
PG: We moved next door to my
DG: We came from a nice, humble
beautiful home that we built up from
a one-bedroom cottage. It was initially
about 900 square feet. We outgrew
that house after our first child. Once
Grandma passed away the whole
dynamic changed. It was time to find
our own grown-up house. This had to
be the 20th home we looked at.
WS: What made you decide to
DG: It felt like a house we could
finish growing in and eventually
PG: We love to entertain. When
I saw the billiards room I nudged
Debbie and said, “Don’t show the
agent how happy I am.”
DG: My parents saw the table. My
father said, “Philly, let’s have a game
and the whiskey will come out.” Now
they live here with us.
PG: We go away for weeks at a time.
Someone is always traveling. When
we do get home and everybody is
here we put the call out so we can get
DG: When we were a young family
it was Phil’s grandmother who was
the family nucleus. The guys would
be in the office and the women would
be in the pool with the kids or outside
in the yard. That’s what I want us to
become here: the family nucleus.
The Gruccis became the first American family
to win the Gold Medal for the United States
at the annual Monte Carlo International
Fireworks Competition in 1979.
1850: Angelo Lanzetta founds small
fireworks company in Bari, Italy
1870: Lanzetta and family emigrate
to New York; settle in Elmont
1899: Lanzetta dies. Company
ownership passes to son Anthony.
1923: Felix Grucci, Sr., Anthony’s
nephew, joins business as apprentice
1929: Family relocates to Bellport
1940: Felix marries Concetta DiDio.
Their children are James, Donna and
Felix Jr. All three enter family business
1960s: Company consolidates grip on
1976: Gruccis produce U.S.
1979: First American family to win
Gold Medal at the annual Monte
Carlo Internaional Fireworks
1981: First Presidential inauguration
1983: Factory explosion in Bellport
kills 2 Gruccis, including Phil’s father,
James, and injures 24 residents.
Cause of blast never determined.
1984: Felix Grucci, Jr (Phil’s uncle)
becomes head of company
1986: Statue of Liberty Centennial
1997: Presidential inauguration of Bill
1999: New Year’s Eve Millennium
Celebrations in 12 Time Zones
2000: Felix Grucci, Jr. elected to
one term, U.S. Congress (R - E.
2002: Opens missile simulator facility
in Radford, VA
2006: Wynn Macau Casino Resort,
Grand Opening, Macau, China
2009: Guiness’ 250th Anniversary,
2013: Felix Grucci Jr and Donna
(Grucci) Butler retire; Phil Grucci
2014: Sets Guinness world record of
firing nearly half-million shells in six
minutes on New Year’s Eve.
2015: 70th anniversary
commemorating end of World II
2018: Sets Guinness record for
firing largest shell in history