Carol Rizzetto Realty
The Rizzetto Building in downtown Sydney, Nova Scotia, is a hub of economic development activity in Cape Breton. And that’s just the way Carol Rizzetto likes it.
The owner of Carol Rizzetto Realty is committed to her community and its growth. It’s a philosophy shared by Rizzetto Building tenants like the Cape Breton Partnership, the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, the Sydney Downtown Development Association, and the local office of Nova Scotia Business Inc.
“I’m born and bred here and I want to continue to live here, and so of course I want the economy to grow. I also have four children,” Rizzetto says. “I want to see people go to school here and, maybe, if they have to move away for graduate studies, be able to come back here. So I am investing in the community.”
The story of how the Rizzetto Building was constructed roughly 11 years ago speaks to Rizzetto’s forward-thinking approach and resourceful spirit. She was teaching gymnastics at the now Cape Breton University when a fire in downtown Sydney led her to buy a number of affected properties. She then had them torn down and in their place built the 20,000 square foot office building, which stands on Charlotte Street today. “I didn’t want to leave a hole in the downtown, which essentially is what would have happened.”
When it came to the building design, which Rizzetto describes as a homey, New England style, she had definite ideas. “I didn’t want it to look like a brick building with a couple of windows. I wanted it to have character just like we do, the people that live here.”
Rizzetto’s community involvement extends far beyond ownership of the Rizzetto Building. Past and present board and committee work includes service with the Cape Breton Partnership, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation, Sport Nova Scotia, the Cape Breton Sport Heritage Committee, Canada Games and her children’s schools.
Keith MacDonald is executive director of Cape Breton Partnership, which he describes as bringing together “Cape Breton’s private sector and public sector leaders in order to build and strengthen Cape Breton’s economy.”
“Carol takes a very experienced approach to all of her business dealings,” he says. “She’s well-connected with the business community as well as the leadership in and around Cape Breton, so she brings those strengths to the board as well as to her committee work.”
Rizzetto comes by her community spirit naturally. “My father (John Kennedy) was the deputy mayor and a councillor for years here in Sydney,” she says. “He was always involved in different community organizations and sat on many committees. My mother was involved in different things as well. So, probably, growing up in a household where I saw that, it was always just an instinct to get involved.”
Rizzetto, a single mother of four, is now sharing that ethic with her children. For example, Gianni, 13, helped raise funds and made his own donation of birthday money for Cape Breton Cares Radiothon, which raises money to expand the Cape Breton Cancer Centre. Sophia, 11, helped to decorate the venue for the Cape Breton Sport Heritage Awards.
“I wouldn’t mind being exactly like her,” says Maria, 17, who has inherited her mother’s ability to juggle many tasks. “She always seems happy with what she does.” Tony, 16, agrees. “I’ve learned that volunteering is good and it helps out a lot of people,” he says.
The message Rizzetto would send to her children concerning the community is one which parallels her own experience. “I would say that in order to achieve, you have to set goals, you have to believe in what you do, and you have to believe in the community where you live through good times and hard economic times,” she says. “It’s worth its weight in gold to watch generations prosper in the community even though sometimes things are difficult.”
Looking ahead, Rizzetto plans to grow her commercial realty business and earn Cape Breton University’s MBA in Community Economic Development. She completed the university’s Bachelor of Arts Community Studies program in 2007.
And she will do it all from the place she loves. In addition to Cape Breton’s natural beauty, Rizzetto notes its cultural richness, friendliness and safety as a place to raise children. She also speaks of its promise.
“I think that we’re in for a bright future because we have business and community people working hand in hand to try to make our island a successful place to open a business or maintain a business and just make it one of the nicest places in the world to live.”
Feature story written by Marie Weeren