Casa Di Ferro owner Pat Mastriano, right, measures for a project that fabricator Erik Knutson, a 10-year company employee, is working on. Photo by Gary Herron.

If you have the three key ingredients for success — location, location, location — for your business, why would anyone want to move?

Don’t think Pat Mastriano wants to relocate his Casa Di Ferro Ironwork company; he had no choice. An upcoming $21 million state highway project destined for the vicinity of Sundt Road and NM 528 made his move necessary.

According to Kenneth Murphy, District 3 engineer for the state Department of Transportation, “We will be adjusting the grade and alignment for access to the Frontage Road on the east side of NM 528 to better accommodate the type of vehicular traffic that utilizes the Industrial Park. We will also be extending the Frontage Road at the north end to connect to Don Julio Road (Northern Boulevard). This project includes the NM 528 three-lane expansion from Ridgecrest Drive to just north of Northern Boulevard and includes extensive drainage improvements as well.”

Construction is expected to begin in spring 2021, and is “highly dependent on the completion of right-of-way acquisition, which is currently in the appraisal phase,” Murphy added.

The Casa’s early days

Mastriano, the “king of iron” in the city, has been working at his Frontage Road business since it was built, when his stepfather, Andrew Bongiorno, moved his family and life’s blood to Rio Rancho in July 1974.

Mastriano’s mother, Eva, who was seven months pregnant when her late husband told her they were definitely moving west, recalled “My husband was a man of vision. He said to me, ‘Someday, this is gonna be a city,’ and I said, ‘In your dreams.'”

He was obviously right, and his business — one of the first in the city — was all alone with a great location, albeit on what was then a two-lane road with a bridge built of railroad ties carrying traffic across the arroyo just south of Sundt.

“What the (expletive) are we doing here?” Eva remembers thinking almost 50 years ago.

She’d sit out in front of the new business and see “a car … and then here comes another car,” far different than the traffic flow now on NM 528.

Mastriano had no plans to leave the site, even though it’s rare when somebody passing by will decide, “Hey, I think I’ll drop in and get some ironwork ordered for my home.”

“Ninety percent of our business is (in) new construction,” Mastriano said. “Commercial-wise, this is the best location.”

He grew up learning the trade and even had the opportunity to teach a metal shop class “down the hill” at Cibola High School — as a student. He graduated in 1980.

“I started fabricating,” he said, “(and) I’ve done every aspect of the business. … It’s kind of a lost art. You have to be a craftsman.”

He was the natural successor to the company as his stepfather fell into declining health. He eventually bought out his mother and planned to keep everything, as they say, “status quo.”

That wasn’t to be.

Although he’s had his share of headaches dealing with the state and arranging to get countless tons of equipment — some of it dating back to World War II — and iron and steel relocated, he said the City of Rio Rancho has been helpful. He expects to be moved in by New Year’s Day, and will later announce plans for a grand opening celebration in the summer.

The new home for Casa De Ferro is 1045 Carpenter St., off Northern Boulevard and within sight of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Transportation Center.

“(This new site) is cleaner, nicer, safer and bigger, and I think we’re going to be way more efficient,” Mastriano said.

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