For the past 14 years, Richard Nelson has been responsible for outfitting every grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
On Sunday, the owner of Tuxedo Park in Carle Place will don his own black tux and ascot as the 77th grand marshal of the annual parade.
“I was surprised,” said Nelson, 42, of learning he had been named grand marshal. “I thought I had to be a lot older.”
Dominick Feeney, president of the Huntington Ancient Order of Hibernians, which runs the parade, said Nelson was chosen because of his dedication to the Hibernians, for the great service he has provided the parade, and as an example of a successful and community-minded businessman.
Every year, the AOH sells advertisements for a parade edition of the local magazine Village Connection to raise money for charity. Feeney said the grand marshal plays a big role in helping to sell ads.
“Our main goal is to raise money for charity,” he said. “So we pick someone that is successful and that can help us.”
Last year, the group donated $12,000 to the food pantry at the Church of St. Patrick in Huntington, as well as thousands of dollars to other local charities, he said.
Nelson, who lives in Smithtown with his wife, Colleen, and sons, Ricky, 17, and Ryan, 12, knows a thing or two about getting the job done. Nelson started working part-time at the original Tuxedo Park location in Patchogue, where he grew up, when he was in high school.
A few years after he started, the then-owner gave him the option of buying into the company. A few years after that, when Nelson was 19, he took over the business and has owned it ever since.
The store recently celebrated its 25th year in business, surviving cycles in the economy and two moves, including a store closure in 2006 in Huntington.
“He’s probably the hardest-working person I’ve ever met,” said Frank Norberto of Patchogue, Nelson’s friend since childhood.
Norberto said he wasn’t surprised when Nelson went into the formal-wear business because he has always taken a lot of care with his appearance. He said even in high school, Nelson kept up with the latest trends.
“He always had the jewelry, was always dressed up, he had the latest fashions,” he said. “But yet, if there’s work to be done and he needs to get his hands dirty, he’s not afraid to do that either. That’s the great thing about Ricky.”
Colleen Nelson, 43, who met her husband in elementary school, said he is a family man. Both of their children play baseball, and he enjoys watching their games. She said her husband is also very generous and willing to help anyone in need.
Two years ago, she said, when a man who worked for Nelson died of cancer, Nelson put together a huge fundraiser at Westbury Manor to raise money for his family.
“Anyone who needs help,” she said. “He’ll drop anything and go out of his way for them.”
The Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off at 2 p.m. Sunday just north of the train station and runs along New York Avenue and Main Street.
Find information about Sunday's Huntington St. Patrick's Day Parade here.