By Maria Adragna
Maria Adragna joined our NYC Sales Team as a Sales Representative in July of this year. Maria’s love and appreciation for small business comes from years of watching her family open their own shops, bakeries, and stores. She even co-owned a bakery with her family before joining our team.
I come from a family of local business owners. My grandparents started the tradition nearly 80 years ago when they immigrated to America from Italy.
As immigrants coming to the fairytale land of immense opportunities, my grandfather opened up an antique store on 79th Street and Columbus Ave., right here in New York City. That antique store eventually merged into a trucking and moving business called “Frank’s Express Antiques and Trucking.”
My father followed a similar path — he came to America and began his career in the construction business and that eventually allowed him to follow his passion of opening up his first bakery. My father began his apprenticeship at a very young age — learning the necessary skills to become a baker, which was his passion, but also to wear all the other hats a business owner must wear.
That hard work and dedication was instilled in both my brother and I from a very young age. At 13, my very first job was working behind the counter at my dad’s bakery, serving customers and learning how to decorate the cakes. At that age, it seemed very glamorous to be able to tie the boxes with the red and white strings that would hang overhead. To be trusted at the register was what would be the first of many promotions.
In 2000, my father approached my brother and I to purchase the bakery of a friend of his who was retiring. It would be known as “Steve and Maria’s Pastry Shoppe.” We had never been equal partners before, and he saw this as an opportunity to not only pass on all that he knew, but also the family legacy. Without hesitating, my brother and I signed up for what would be the most difficult jobs of our lives.
Being your own boss sounds incredible — but working 24/7? Not so much. A bakery, at first seems like a no brainer: you mix the flour and the sugar and all the other ingredients put it into an oven and out comes a variety of delicious confections. If only it was that simple.
As a small business owner, you’re also a human resource department, a litigator, customer service advocate, marketing specialist, architect, accountant, and janitorial staff. It’s hard work, but it is miraculously rewarding.
You realize that all the hard work and hours really do mean something. You make valuable contributions in your neighborhood as a local business owner. You’re not only contributing to the economy and providing for your family, but you become an integral part of your customers’ lives. You partake in some of the most joyous occasions of their lives. You get to know them and their families, as well as their stories.
For me, this was the most exciting part — whether we were planning a wedding cake, filling boxes of pastries for holiday celebrations, or boxes of cupcakes for a classroom birthday party. We were being of service, which in life is my main purpose.
Nothing can bring you a greater joy than knowing you contributed in some way to the happiness of someone else’s life.
Now, we’re a family of restauranteurs, hair stylists, and even a night club owner. The tradition of being of a local business owner carries on and the gratitude of being of service continues.
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Source: Main Street Hub