During the 1964 World’s Fair, a young Tom Struzzieri helped his parents run a pony ride concession. As he watched the gentle animals bring such joy to people, “I knew, someday, I wanted to work with horses.”
Today, Struzzieri is the owner of Saugerties-based HITS, Inc., a national special-events management company producing hunter/jumper horse shows in California, Florida, Arizona, Virginia, Illinois, and New York — including three of the richest grand prix in the world. But his entrepreneurial spirit is no one-trick pony: His other holdings include HITS Endurance, a sports endeavor; Diamond Mills Hotel and Lynch’s Marina in Saugerties; the Balmoral Woods Golf Club near Chicago; and BLACKBARN restaurants in Manhattan.
That seems like a lot for one man, but Struzzieri’s always been adept at juggling activities and duties. Involved in sports since childhood, he says he would “leave riding lessons to go to boxing lessons.” Today, he is also an accomplished triathlete.
In 1977, the Long Island native moved to Poughkeepsie, where he launched his first business venture, Rose View Farms. He gave lessons to the locals and ran a few horse shows. “I discovered I liked managing events that combined business with my passion for horses,” he notes.
Alexandra Pielet rode ‘Helene VE’ to first place and a $10,000 win in the Saugerties Steamboat Co. Classic at HITS last summer.
Struzzieri saw an opportunity in horse shows and with an ability, as he says, “to turn two nickels into a quarter,” he started producing shows in other states, “learning as I went from the mistakes I made.”
Including knowing when it’s time to go.
Stuzzieri turned down a recently awarded $1.1 million contract to book major events at the new Exposition Center on the New York State Fairgrounds. “The path of the state-owned facility was going sideways with my own path,” he says.
There’s more to the man than horses and business acumen. At the end of the day, it all comes down to family. “While I am fortunate to have terrific passion for all I do, my happiest moments are with my family,” he says.
The HITS Saugerties Show Series: Equestrians from all over the country will be in Saugerties for nine weeks of shows — and $3 million in prize money — this summer, beginning with HITS-on-the-Hudson May 22 and ending with the M&S Insurance League National Finals Sept 11-15. The Saugerties $500,000 Grand Prix takes place Sept 8.
While there is no horse show background in the family, Struzzieri credits his father, Peter, for instilling the value of a fruitful work life and the desire to work hard. “He was my mentor. He loved his work, ” says Struzzieri, 60, noting the elder Struzzieri owned a furniture moving business and at night worked for the MTA as a dispatcher.
“I struggle to be like him,” he adds.
His self-proclaimed struggle is apparently not in vain, as he’s passed an industrious legacy to the next generation: “My three kids all work hard and are embracing a path of success that I am sure will leave me in their wake.”
Struzzieri’s middle daughter, Samantha, 20, accompanied him to California this year for the winter horse show circuit, as did Jane, his wife and “perfect partner” of more than 25 years. He credits Jane for raising their three children — including Pia, 23, and Tommy, 18, a Syracuse University freshman — while he was on the road making hay with horse shows in Florida, Virginia, Illinois, and Arizona. All three children help in the business.
Summing up what’s important in life, Struzzieri said it’s “taking care of yourself, loving your family, giving to your community, and loving your work.”
“I’m lucky enough to have all four.”