All In the Family – Longtime Family Businesses Share their Stories
Cheryl Fenton writer
Beth Furman photographer
When you think of something passed down from parent to child, typically physical attributes come to mind—a signature family nose, a lucky metabolism, an unlucky hairline. Even emotional traits fall into their own places in terms of “gifts” from our parents—a certain laugh, facial expressions, or a tenacity that can only be described as “your mother’s.”
But there’s a sense of unity with families who have chosen to pass down a business. It starts with an older generation building their dream from scratch, sometimes with just a few dollars in their pockets. After years of working hard, they happily begin to involve their children and their children’s children, handing down the reins to the younger set. Each generation is tasked with keeping the original values and goals. They bring a personal touch to customer service and attention to detail that isn’t usually experienced when big box chains are involved and family is far from the front lines.
Say “cheers” to these places where everybody knows your name, as we glimpse into neighborhood families and their successes.
Watch Success: With honed watchmaking skills and a $1,000 loan from his sister-in-law, John W. Anderson struck out on his own to found Anderson’s Jewelers. The year was 1947, a time when watchmakers were in demand. John’s sons, Robert and Richard, came on board to manage the thriving business, with expansions to the store’s diamond inventory growing steadily. Anderson’s become a three-generation family business in the 1970s, with Robert’s daughter, Vickie Mancini, and sons Neil and Kurt Anderson. The brothers became certified gemologists, while Mancini became the jewelry and giftware buyer. Extended family like cousins Daniel Anderson and Jim Hamilton, as well as nieces and nephews, are all helping Anderson’s continue to grow. Although enjoying his 80s in sunny Florida, Robert is still very active in the business.
“My grandfather may have designed a customer’s wedding ring 60 years ago,” says Mancini. “That customer then continues to mark special occasions with a personal piece from us—the birth of a child, anniversaries, birthdays, retirement. Today we’re helping a new generation along their journey—engraving sterling baby rattles for their great grandchildren. It’s great to know that we’ve been important to families for generations.”
A bright pink, $1,500 designer watch caught Mancini’s three-year-old granddaughter Juliana’s eye one Saturday. The following Monday, Mancini’s daughter-in-law told co-workers, which in turn led to one of those co-workers inquiring about the watch. “That day, a sale was made by the fifth generation of Anderson’s Jewelers,” says Mancini proudly.
Captain Marden’s Seafoods
Founded in 1945 by Master Mariner Captain Roy Wilfred Marden, Captain Marden’s Seafoods has grown from one retail store to include over 90 employees, a restaurant and takeout shop open seven days a week, its own line of frozen entrées, a fleet of over 25 trucks, and a highly respected wholesale operation. The restaurant that opened originally for primarily takeout has also blossomed, offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch, with signature items like baked stuffed lobsters, crab cakes, and chowders. Today, the third generation of Mardens is “at the helm,” with Captain Roy’s son Keith Marden Sr. and his son, daughter Nancy Goodall, and nephew Richard Marden on board. A fourth generation is in the works, with four of their children working part-time in the restaurant, retail store, and wholesale during school breaks.
Within the Marden family, they’re always passing around favorite recipes from relatives, neighbors, and friends. With that in mind, the shop created an online “Recipe Swap” where visitors share their best seafood recipes.
“Apart from our commitment to quality, we’ve been successful because we have conservatively managed our growth and more importantly because we have been actively involved in all areas of the business,” says Goodall. “We would all agree that my father Keith Marden, ‘The Captain,’ has been the helmsman and that’s evident everywhere you go with him. Customers always have some kind words to offer.”
A.M. DePrisco Wellesley
Known as Boston’s premiere diamond jeweler since 1948, DePrisco began when Marie and Francis DePrisco came to downtown Boston with $300 and together built a real gem. Excited to join the team, their eldest daughter Donna changed her plans as an accomplished pianist and became a DePrisco member in the late 1960s, and younger brother Albert’s first paycheck came in 1972 as he began his career on Saturdays during his high school years. DePrisco opened its Wellesley location in 1978, a natural decision with the family living in Wellesley since Albert’s birth. Today Donna splits her time between the Boston and Osterville stores, while Albert has owned and run A.M. DePrisco Wellesley since 1995 where he has created a new family out of the dedicated women he works with. “My family are the people I work with. They’re like sisters,” he laughs.
“When someone gets comfortable with a family jeweler, we become family jewelers,” says Albert, speaking of DePrisco’s generational customers. “A 16-year-old gets diamond earrings, and then as they get older, they come in for an engagement ring.” The uniqueness of the store’s artisan jewelry adds to its popularity, as they design original pieces and work with talented designers who aren’t mainstream.
Albert remembers a customer who brought in a box of jewelry to DePrisco; there was a very special piece inside. “I found a cuff bracelet with children climbing trees that my mom had made years ago when she was with Parenti Jewelers on Newbury Street.”
E.A. Davis Department Store
The year was 1904—a time when few women worked outside the home. That didn’t sit well with Emma Davis. A woman of classic good taste and the entrepreneurial spirit, she decided to do more than just work. She began her own business. And so E.A. Davis was born. With a humble beginning as a classic dry goods store, selling notions, fabrics, and dress patterns to its Brighton customers, the store moved shortly to its current Wellesley location. Circa 1918, Davis’ nephew, Charles Holman, finished up his Harvard education and began working for his aunt. Holman bought the business and built up Holman Block (currently Church Square), while expanding the store’s wares to high-end clothing. In 1975, Bob Skolnick entered the scene, buying E.A. Davis from the Holman Family. Today, father and son Rob run the growing business.
Carrying the finest fashions for the entire family (think Burberry, Lacoste, Lilly Pulitzer, Tommy Bahama, and Vera Bradley), Skolnick recently decided that fixing up the castle is just as important as dressing the king and queen. A full-service interior decorating center was added with both in-store and at-home interior decorating consultations, on-site workrooms for window treatments, and upholstery services. They’re also the exclusive retailer of Neil Devlin Antiques & Decorations.
Currently the oldest store in Wellesley, customers have said the friendly atmosphere makes stepping through its doors seem like stepping back in time, even though you’re surrounded by modern merchandise. It’s crossing this generational threshold that creates a successful business. “It’s nice to see a grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter come in, and all leave happy with new outfits,” says Rob Skolnick. “How many stores can offer a selection that keeps three generations happy?”
You might pass by this unpretentious little market, but that would be your loss. Inside you’ll find a selection of meats that has maintained a faithful following for more than 30 years. The Katsikaris Family has owned and operated Fells Market since 1981, when George and Diane bought the store. The couple, with their two sons Paul and Peter, worked there for years, providing Certified Angus meats, Boar’s Head deli meats, Bell & Evans chicken, produce, home-made foods, and fresh breads. The bookend generations (the retired senior Katsikarises and their young grandchildren) help when able at this local staple market.
Instead of focusing on the store size, the Katsikaris family is focusing on the big picture. “We’re not looking to expand the business, but are expanding our reputation to neighboring communities. We want our customers to feel like family,” says Paul, adding that his belief is that a family business brings a core network of warmth to a community.
“Fells Market is the heart of our neighborhood. It’s like our own Cheers,” says Beth Hinchliffe, life-long Wellesley resident and long-time customer. “They have your regular order waiting, ask about your family, and tease you with inside jokes. They make us feel like we’re an extension of their own family. In this time of impersonal chain stores and pre-packaged foods, we’re lucky to have this real mom-and-pop store with strong values.”
Started by Jack Kennedy and his business partner, Dan Travers, in 1960 under the name of Sullivan’s Curtains, the store first opened in Lynn and covered the North Shore. In 1988, they expanded to Wellesley where the store remained for the next two decades, and ultimately made the 2007 move to its current Needham home. Helping in the shop as young boys, sons John and Neil took an interest in maintaining the same quality work of their father. With Jack and his wife, Lucille, retiring in 1999, the brothers have continued to help make Home Trends grow.
A simple business of custom and ready-made curtains, window shades, upholstery, and slip covering gave start to Home Trends. But the future growth created the home décor shop it is today, with custom window treatments, wallpaper, area rugs, and home and bath accessories. The infamous “bargain basement” began in the Wellesley store and delights both homes and wallets. The brothers expanded their window shade business by becoming a Hunter Douglas Gallery in 2001, making them the first in Massachusetts.
Much like design trends themselves, Home Trends may have changed its colors throughout the decades, but the same principles of dedication and personal attention have always been on display. “The business has evolved and flourished over 50 years,” says John. “We’ve been able to maintain our core principles even with the ups and downs of the economy during the early 1990s and the last few years.”
holds claim as one of the oldest restaurants in town, dating back to the early 1900s and under the ownership of Peter and Vasiliki Papakonstantinou since 1980. Their son Charlie and his wife Camille are now co-owners, with the two parents still continuing to work hard at this dining legacy.
The draw to this restaurant is not only the fresh authentic Greek and American dishes, but also the familiar faces that have been there for decades. With 65 percent of customers considered regulars, conversations between owner and guest take on a more personal touch. “The reality for my parents is that they could have retired years ago, but they genuinely love what they do,” says Charlie. “They’re proud to still be able to greet customers and have made Maugus their second home. We make everybody feel like Maugus is their second home, too.”
In January 2010, Charlie took a chance on an abandoned building, updated it, and opened Milestone, adding a restaurant with a southern European flare to the Wellesley community in which he grew up. “I thought if I brought the same ingredients from Maugus like hard work, fresh food, and great service with that personal touch, it would add to the success,” he says.
Wasik’s Cheese Shop
The son of Polish immigrants, Steve Wasik went from floor sweeper at a cheese shop in the early 1960s to vice president of Cheese Shop International a decade later. After working to establish more than 200 stores in the U.S. and introduce Americans to hard-to-find European cheeses, Wasik branched out with wife, Carol, and opened The Cheese Shop in 1979. Sons Brian and Brad and daughter, Chrissy, soon joined the couple behind the counter, known to locals as Wasik’s. One of the oldest full-service cheese shops in the country, Wasik’s also carries specialty food items such as olive oil, chocolate, and caviar.
When Steve (known as not only the captain of the family’s ship, but their “anchor, rudder, sail, and wind”) passed away suddenly on December 20th last year, the community embraced the Wasiks, giving them strength to continue. “While we’ve always felt as if we were a strong part of our community, we were awed at the outpouring of support and love,” says Brian. “Our community has embraced us far beyond any expectations.”
In the age of large grocery chains and big box stores, Wasik’s is a throwback to when people had relationships with community businesses. “We go back to the day when every town had a butcher, a fishmonger, and a cheese shop. You got the best product from them because each one knew their product best,” says Brian. “Bigger isn’t always better. Product quality will always get lost between the corporate office and front lines. Our office is on the front lines.”
Look for our article in the winter issue on businesses that have been in Wellesley and Weston for fifty or more years.
© 2011 Elm Bank Media | Beth Furman, Publisher | Beth@ElmBankMedia.com