SANFORD — “Quality first. Cost second,” wrote entrepreneur Jeno Paulucci in a pamphlet of advice he called “Jeno’s Credos.” It’s a philosophy that shows through in the details of the late businessman’s 4,200-square foot Sanford home at 2020 Washington Ave.
“There’s so much history here,” said Erica Bolton, who bought the house from the Paulucci estate in March for $400,000 with her husband, Garth, owner of GEB Properties. “Everyone in Sanford knows this house.”
Now, after six months of renovations and nearly nine years after Paulucci’s death, the home is going on the market for an asking price of $950,000.
Although Paulucci died in 2011, the estate had been tied up by a lengthy legal battle between his children and the appointed managers of his trust. The battle was settled last year, paving the way for the home’s sale.
The mid-century ranch-style house with four bedrooms isn’t as impressive as one might imagine for a man who left behind a $150 million estate. It features a pool and pool house and an outdoor barbecue hut with built-in rotisserie spits, and the landscaping sports several large, majestic live oaks on the acre-and-a-half of property.
It’s recognizable, but somewhat humble compared with some of Central Florida’s other homes of the rich and famous.
“It wasn’t modest back in 1959” when it was built, said Ingrid Dodd, the real estate agent handling the sale.
A son of Italian immigrants, Paulucci was born in 1918 in Minnesota, where he started the company that made his fortune, Bellisio Foods, which included brands such as Jeno’s Pizza Rolls, Michelina’s and Chun King Chinese Food.
Italian and Asian were the two main decorating influences on Paulucci’s home, according to the property’s caretaker of 12 years, James Capps. Visitors are greeted by Italian marble at the entryway, and interior cabinets and vanities have custom-made Chinese symbols for knobs and drawer pulls.
Paulucci also was locally famous for having been the primary developer in the Heathrow community in Seminole County. He told the Orlando Sentinel in an interview in 2001 that he named the development Heathrow because he wanted to evoke a retreat for British royalty.
Capps, 32, began maintaining properties for Paulucci as a teenager, including his home and office building in downtown Sanford. He said the biggest challenge was making repairs, as Paulucci brought with him an austere attitude toward renovation born of his Midwest upbringing.
“Very much in the mindset of growing up in the Iron Range, you don’t throw anything away and you just fix what’s broken,” Capps said.
The Boltons have invested more than $250,000 into this flip, including major updates to the plumbing and electrical systems, as well as opening up and upgrading the kitchen with new counters and installing new bathroom fixtures. “At the same time, we’re trying to keep all the charm that we can,” Garth said.
Many traces of Paulucci’s personality linger, such as the five independent air conditioners in the house. “He had control of everything else, so he wanted to control the thermostat to a T,” Capps said.
To that end, Paulucci also had several humidifiers and dehumidifiers throughout the house. “Always trying to achieve that perfect balance,” Capps said.
The landscaping paints an impressive picture. Paulucci hosted parties and even U.S. presidents at his home, having personally advised every president from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. The driveway from Mellonville Avenue brings visitors past a pathway under the branches of a live oak supported by custom poles Paulucci had installed.
Some of the most revealing touches of Paulucci’s eccentricities are gone, such as the “overdone” amount of locks throughout the house, according to Garth. Paulucci at one point employed a full-time security guard on the premises.
Across Washington Avenue, Paulucci owned a separate house for his personal pilot. The Boltons purchased that in a separate sale along with the empty lot Paulucci kept landscaped so he could practice golf on it. The Boltons are hoping to keep the landscaping but build new homes on it.
“We’re going to call it Paulucci Oaks,” Garth said.
The Boltons also purchased the guesthouse on the main property, which has its own driveway and lot, for $125,000. That house, known as the McCaslin House for its original builder, has already been sold for $220,000.
Open houses for the property start 1-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Dodd said she’s ready for an influx of guests.
“In Sanford, people love historic homes,” she said. “So we’ve got to be prepared for the ones who will come just to look.”
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