Frank and Lena Venturelli: Partners in Business and Life

September 24, 2019

Frank and Lena Venturelli have done it all together. The longtime San Mateo residents, married 68 years this July, owned and operated a successful business and raised two children. Along the way, they also became something they never expected: pioneers.

Frank was a TV Technician who also installed antenna systems. In the 1960s, when Foster City was in its infancy, the city wouldn’t allow antennas on rooftops as per city ordinance and by-laws since the flight paths of planes landing at SFO passed directly overhead.

“People had to use rabbit ears to get reception,” Frank said. “A plane would pass overhead every two or three minutes, causing the TV picture to flutter, becoming unviewable.”

Frank saw an opportunity. Along with his brother-in-law Al Cerro, he approached the Foster brothers in 1966 with the idea of installing cable television in Foster City. A deal was struck, the company Cer-Vent Cable TV was born, and Frank helped to change the way Foster City residents watched television.

“We installed 70 miles of cable,” Frank said, while showing me newspaper clippings from the time heralding the deal. “We were offering 12 channels, which was a big deal back then. It’s unbelievable to me what cable is today.”

Lena was Frank’s partner in the business – “She was our right-hand ‘man’,” Frank recalled – and wore several hats, from bookkeeper, to saleswoman, to receptionist. Together, they kept things going until they couldn’t keep up with the demands of the rapidly-expanding city. They sold   Cer-Vent Cable in 1968 to Continental Telephone and used the profits to buy a portion of the Burlingame Plaza Shopping Center (with Lunardi’s as one of their tenants) which they still own today. Frank kept his TV Sales and Repair business until he retired, and now assists his son David and nephew Alan Cerro in running the shopping center.

Frank and Lena moved to Sterling Court last July and immediately felt at home. They already knew a few other residents before moving in and have made more friends along the way. Frank even met another resident who was in his high school senior class.

“There are great people here,” Frank said. “They’re friendly and the staff is great. They just really treat you well here.” They’re also big fans of the food. “It’s hard to get thin here!” Frank said, laughing.

The couple stays busy, enjoying many of the activities offered at Sterling Court. Frank even makes time to entertain the other residents with his accordion, which he’s played since childhood. They’re also active members of the Peninsula Social Club and enjoy spending time with their two children, four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Frank and Lena’s impressive business acumen is admirable, but it’s their personal story that resonates the most. It’s a testament to the strength of their relationship that they have accomplished so much while staying at each other’s side along the way. Raising an amazing family and shepherding a pioneering business are great triumphs on their own, but to do both is something truly special.

When they met through a mutual friend who happened to be working on Lena’s family home, both felt it was love at first sight. It’s safe to say that they were right.

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