The Capital Region is home to thousands of great businesses. Some have been family-owned for three, four, even five generations; others are just starting up, planting their roots in the community. On the following pages we profile 40 businesses that will help you with all your needs—jewelers, real estate agents, nurseries, gift shops, restaurants and many more. Read on to meet the owners of each business and make plans to stop in soon!
By Mary Beth DeCecco
Perfect Blend Espresso Bar and Café
376 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, 439.6537; www.perfectblend.com
Owners: Roberta 44, and Jack Bastow, 45
Describe your business: It’s a neighborhood coffeehouse—a community gathering place where businesspeople get their morning java fix and chat, kids get their after school frozen drinks and treats, moms meet and bring their kids, and grad students, freelance writers and teachers spend quiet time on their computers studying, grading papers or writing. We also have open mic and live music every Saturday night and Wednesday evenings this summer, as well as a monthly changing art exhibit from local artists.
How did you become involved in this industry? The idea for Perfect Blend was started when I took a “mental health day” three years ago. I knew it was time for a major career change after 20 years in banking. I surfed the Internet, took a career assessment test and researched various industries. I wanted to do something very different for my “second career”—something that I could build and enjoy.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? There were several female friends and colleagues who influenced my decision to leave the “security” of corporate America. They had the guts to leave cushy positions to start their own firms. I figured if they could do it, so could I, even though mine would be a 360-degree change.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Do your homework, learn the industry, stay on top of current trends, hire great employees and treat them well, pay attention to the financial side, market, market, market, be innovative, keep your options open, stay focused, listen to your customers, make your own decisions and don’t give away all your hard earned knowledge to everyone who asks!
How does having a family fit in with running a business? Both of my teenage sons work at Perfect Blend. My husband, Jack, is “Mr. Fix It” and also acts as my sounding board and rock. It’s always a challenge balancing work and family life, especially when you own a new business and it’s your “baby”. I’m grateful for all the support, encouragement and understanding my family provides.
What do you like best about working for yourself? I like the fact that there is no corporate ladder to get decisions made. Most days there are several important decisions to make such as: introduce a new product, change vendors or decide upon a new ad. I thrive on having the ability to evaluate a situation and make an educated decision without seeking approval!
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
•Be passionate about what you’re doing.
•Be prepared for employee turnover—have backup.
•There are always options, so you should never feel tied into a situation.
•Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Hours: Monday-Thursday 7am-10pm; Friday 7am-11pm; Saturday 8am-11pm; Sunday 8am-9pm.
A Unique Salon
599 Watervliet Shaker Road, Latham, 713.2023; www.auniquesalon.net
Owners: Laura Spratt, 42 and her sister
Describe your business: Our business consists of massage therapy, hot stone massage, permanent makeup, waxing, electrolysis, skin care, facials, photo rejuvenation, and manicures and pedicures. We call it a salon, but we have no hairdressers! We offer excellent quality service and have fun doing so. We’re really on the cutting edge with some of the things we do.
How did you become involved in this industry? When I was in the dentistry field, an electrologist I knew suggested I’d be good at it. Since I’m a free spirit, I knew for my future career I needed flexibility. After doing research, I went to electrolysis school. Two years later, I went on my own. For four years I had a small space, then moved to another spot for more than eight years before I settled here, more than three years ago.
What do you like best about working for yourself? We love what we can offer our clients. We also love the flexibility we need for our lifestyle.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? There will always be ups and downs, especially with the economy, which is tough sometimes. The first month after we moved, our war broke out. Business was so slow we barely made it. The economy is crazy sometimes, but life is fun, so just make the best of it.
Hours: By appointment preferred.
Abella Tile & Marble
1712 Route 9 Clifton Park, 383.2373
Owners: Steve and Michelle Walsh
Describe your business: Abella Tile & Marble is really a design center for individuals looking for that unique style for their personal taste. Our 3,200 square foot showroom features not only ceramic tile, but also some of the area’s most beautiful glass tile, cobblestone, porcelain tile, slate, mosaics, limestone, marble, granite, decorative metals and pre-finished hardwoods available. Our goal is to provide one-on-one personal attention with one of our four designers on staff. Abella Tile & Marble is our art gallery and we want all to see the elegance of tile that is available.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My influence in owning a business came from my father. I grew up watching him become a successful business owner and he taught me that times will be tough and that perseverance will pay off.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? My advice to anyone looking to own their own business is to do your homework and be prepared because things seem a lot more glorious than the reality of everyday business.
What do you like best about working for yourself? The best thing about being in business for ourselves is getting all the bills and trying to find money to pay them, getting up every morning to open the store when we would like to call in sick, going on vacation and checking in everyday that somebody else opened the store, talking to salesmen trying to sell me something that we don’t want, and on and on. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? We have learned many lessons—some good, some bad—but nonetheless a learned experience that will continue to move us in the positive direction.
Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-6pm; Saturday 10am-4pm.
Aesthetic Science Institute
1202 Troy-Schenectady Road, Latham , 786.0760
Owner: Michelle D’Allaird, 35
Describe your business: It’s a NY State licensed school providing education in skin care and nail specialty.
How did you become involved in this industry? I chose this industry because it has been a passion of mine for 20 years. I feel that it provides me with an avenue to make others feel good and look good, and now offer professional opportunities for women and men.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My greatest influence was the support I received from others in the industry and from my husband.
What advice would give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? My advice to anyone wanting to pursue the same career is go for it! Life is too short to always wonder and only you can make things happen. This industry is full of both personal and professional rewards.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? My family is my life. I have two boys ages 10 and 3. Life gets tricky and sometimes overwhelming, but I could not have done it without their Dad!
What do you like best about working for yourself? The best part of being in business for myself is knowing that the sky is the limit, and I have the ability to make it whatever I want.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
• Always go with your gut when making tough decisions.
• Success is a matter of what you put into it.
• Surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak.
• Teamwork allows you to flourish.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 9am-9pm; Tuesday, Friday, Saturday 9am-5pm.
Business: Andriano’s Pizzeria
65 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, 439.7669
Owners: Pat and Diane Steven, both 42
Describe your business: We are a small, pick-up and delivery pizzeria—family owned and operated for the past nine years. We sell pizza, wings, subs, salads, side orders, catering primarily to the Bethlehem area. Everything is made fresh; no canned items.
How did you become involved in this industry? My brother-in-law, Phil, owned Andriano’s many years ago. When he asked us if we would be interested in the business we thought it would be a great opportunity to be a part of a business that had a reputation for good, quality pizza. I knew a little bit about the restaurant business, but I never made pizza. The owner’s son stayed to help us get things off the ground and the end result was the same commitment to quality and taste that Andriano’s has always been known for.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My brother-in-law and Diane, my wife, who was really into it because she had worked there many years ago with her brother.
What advice would you give to others who wish ing to pursue a similar career? Do it! It’s great working for yourself and managing your own place.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? It’s hard at first, but then it gets easier. For the first three years, we had babysitters. Now that we have been around enough, Diane will come in now and then, but I am here most of the time. It’s good because I can set my own hours and still take care of the kids and be there with them. I can get home when they are still awake. My family loves it—the kids cannot wait to work at the pizzeria.
What do you like best about working for yourself? Managing my own time. You can do things the way you want them done, instead of doing them through channels. I like being able to pick my own workers. It’s a good feeling when people come in and say, “I love your pizza.” Good, positive feedback is a good thing.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? Never take anybody for granted. Everyone has their style of eating. What I like other people may not like it. That’s why if people want something we do not have, we will usually run to the store to try to get it. We also keep in mind that the customer is always right.
Hours: Sundays 12pm-8pm; Monday 4pm-9pm; Tuesday-Thursday 11am-9pm; Friday and Saturday 11am-10pm.
Business: Advanced Audiology Services
2001 Fifth Avenue, at the Troy Medical Plaza, Troy, 270.5802: www.advancedaudiologysvcs.com
Owner: Robert N. Ferguson, MA, NYS licensed audiologist.
Describe your business: We are a small, private-practice audiology office with a focus on diagnostic audiologic testing [hearing tests] of children and adults, hearing aid dispensing, and provision of assistive-listening devices as well as products to conserve hearing.
How did you become involved in this industry? Doing something to help people to make their lives better has always appealed to me. I was introduced to audiology when I took some courses in speech pathology as an undergraduate at Howard University in Washington, DC. After receiving a BS in psychology in 1963, I decided to continue in the field, obtaining a masters degree from Ohio State University. In the U.S. Army, I served as an audiologist at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas from 1966 to 1968. After being discharged, I enrolled in further graduate studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, fulfilling all requirements to become a Candidate in Philosophy in the field of audiology. In 1973, I came to Albany to accept the position as Chief of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the local Veterans Administration Medical Center. I retired from the Stratton VAMC in April 2000 and soon after that began private practice in audiology.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? A mentor at Howard University, Charles G. Hurst, PhD, guided and encouraged me during the early years.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? The profession was new when I started. It is now well established and an excellent choice, allowing employment opportunities in many settings, including colleges and universities, hospitals, speech and hearing clinics, industry, public schools, and private-practice offices. There are prospects for teaching, providing direct patient care, working in industry and private self-employment. One won’t get rich, but can earn a respectable living and have regular hours. Be aware, too, that the education never ends; you will continue to take courses, take seminars, and be engaged in other learning activities for the rest of your career.
What do you like best about working for yourself? Not having to ask anyone, “May I ….?”
What important lessons have you learned along the way? Believe in your values. As long as you have done and continue to do your best, understand that it is impossible to please everyone, so don’t dwell on negative experiences, which everyone who deals with the public will encounter occasionally. Also, owning a business means that it is never off your mind.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9:30am-4:30pm. Additional appointments can be arranged.
Calhoun Equipment Company, Inc
1084 NY 40, Melrose, 753.6921
Owners: Dan and Wendy Calhoun, both 53
Describe your business: Lawn and Garden Equipment Sales and Service with our main line of Cub Cadets
How did you become involved in this industry? The business used to be farm equipment owned by Bob Calhoun (Dan’s father) and we took it over after he retired. The farming industry in our area has declined, so we decided to focus on lawn and garden.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Be prepared to devote long hours and hire good employees who are dependable, knowledgeable and willing to go the extra mile.
What do you like best about working for yourself? Having only yourself to answer to. But that is also a double-edged sword, as that means the buck stops here.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? The most important lesson is to treat your customers as you would like to be treated.
Hours: Monday-Friday 8am-5:30pm; Saturday 8am-2pm. If someone needs us to stay late, we try to accommodate them.
Berkshire Slipcover Outlet
340 Stockbridge Rd (Route 7), Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 413.528.9737; www.berkshireslipcoveroutlet.com
Owner: Liana Toscanini, 44
Describe your business: It’s a home furnishings store offering readymade slipcovers, custom slipcovers, Waverly fabric, linens, pottery and gifts.
How did you become involved in this industry? I decided to open a store in 2003 because I didn’t want to continue commuting to NYC from the Berkshires. I chose to open a slipcover shop because I worked for 10 years as vice president of marketing at Sure Fit, Inc., the world’s largest slipcover manufacturer.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Retail is a demanding business. Try to have a partner and one or two good part-timers so you’re not tied to the store seven days a week.
How does having a family fit in with running your own business? My husband pitches in a lot. He built all the fixtures and does all the maintenance work. He’s also great on the selling floor. He even gives me his opinion when buying merchandise for the store. Many of the young people who work for me are children of neighbors, which is great for the built-in trust factor.
What do you like best about working for yourself? I like being my own boss and master of my own time. Owning my own business allows me to pursue volunteer activities, which is important to me. I like serving the local community and getting to know many of the residents and other business owners.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? I learned to move things around in the store. A simple change of location can cause an item to sell. Sounds obvious, but it works every time. Unfortunately, it’s a lot of work to move things around all the time.
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-9pm; Sunday 11am-5pm.
Davies-Davies & Associates Real Estate LLC
7 Cleverdale Road, corner of Route 9L and Cleverdale Road (East side of Lake George), 656.9068
Owners: Daniel L Davies, 35 and Sharon W. Davies, 59 (partners) and Rachel Davies-Hohman, 32, agent.
Describe your business: We sell real estate specializing in Lake George and distinctive area properties—lake front, lake access, town homes, residential, commercial, appraisals and rentals.
How did you become involved in this industry? We have always enjoyed helping people find their dreams. Our genuine love of the area and Lake George is reflected by our agents’ sales records. We’ve been top of the list for over 15 years. We are simply selling a product we love.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? Dan graduated from Siena College with a finance degree. The business ideals taught at Siena have influenced our business philosophy. Also, both grandfathers influenced our business ideals. James E. West was the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America and Elwyn E. Seelye founded one of New York’s largest engineering firms— they both gave us an understanding of work ethics and goals.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Have integrity and stay focused on your customers—their needs are the most important. You should strive to learn as much you can about the field with a mentor and by taking as many real estate courses as possible.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? Davies & Associates is a family owned business—we have such a cooperative spirit with our agents (most of them have been working together for over 10-20 years) that the agency feels like a family.
What do you like best about being in business for yourself? I like the ability to be true to our business philosophy and have some control over our destiny
What important lessons have you learned along the way? Integrity and service to our clients and customers is the most important part of Davies-Davies & Associates Real Estate LLC business philosophy. We have maintained contact with many of our customers and clients for over 20 years. They know the sincerity of our relationship and many have become lifelong friends.
Hours: 8:30am-6pm, daily.
186 Wolf Road, Albany, 458.7862
Owner: Ralph Douty, 57
Describe your business: It’s a Garden Center that sells everything from plants, herbs, statues, gazing balls and much more. The farm has been there since 1918 and the garden center since 1967.
How did you become involved in this industry? I grew up in it.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? The greenhouse growers in Colonie.
What advice would you give to others pursuing a similar career? This career is not 9-5, it’s more like 5am-9pm
How does family fit in with running a business? It’s a good fit if they like the work.
What do you like best about working for yourself? I like that I control my life.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? Never stop trying to do things better.
Hours: 9am-6pm, seven days
Deckers Landscaping & Nursery, Inc.
1632 Main Street, Rt. 5s Pattersonville, 887.5552; www.deckerspondsandwaterfalls.com
Owners: Alan P. Decker, president, 37, Jodi L. Decker, vice president, 34 (husband and wife)
Describe your business: Deckers Landscaping & Nursery, Inc. was established in 1990 as a design/build installation company. We install foundation plantings, paver walkways, driveways, retaining walls and patios. We specialize in water garden installation, such as backyard ponds, pondless waterfalls, bog filtration, swimming ponds and wetland construction. We operate out of our nursery location, where we grow quality bedding plants and perennials, and we also carry a large variety of unique trees and shrubs. Our nursery also includes “LULABUDS” a primitive folk art gift shop full of home décor items.
How did you become involved in this industry? Alan’s interest in the landscaping industry began as a fondness for agriculture while growing up and grew into design/build landscaping as an outlet for his creativity.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Go to college, get your education and keep learning. Remember that education does not end with a college degree; continue to attend conferences and seminars and network with experts in your field.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? Family is the foundation of our business. We have an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old and they’re both involved in the business. Anyone visiting our nursery is bound to see Jacob and Emilie helping out, whether it’s catching fish to sell or carrying plants for customers. Both of our parents are often found helping out wherever they can as well.
What do you like best about working for yourself? The best thing about being in business for ourselves is controlling our own destiny. We control our own future while establishing a solid foundation for our children’s future.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? We have learned that you get out what you put into it. It takes a lot of time and energy to run any business and the more time and energy you put in, the more you will get out of it. Building a family business goes beyond the first generation. All of the steps and decisions we make are based on longevity. A family business should be able to grow with each generation adding new ideas and energy.
Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-6pm; Saturday 9am-4pm, closed Sunday (July & August summer hours).
Delmar Dental Medicine
344 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, 439.4228
Describe your business: Dr. Thomas H. Abele is a general dentist with an emphasis on oral prosthetic reconstruction, dental implantology and cosmetic dentistry.
How did you become involved in this industry? I began working at this location in 1969, and took over the business from Dr. Meyers when he retired. In 1984, I built a new dental facility at the current location.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My father, Harold, has been a laboratory technician for over 60 years and still works in the on-site laboratory at Delmar Dental Medicine.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? For anyone interested in becoming a dentist, it is important to go to a dental office and observe a dentist treating patients.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? One important lesson that has become apparent over the many years of dental practice is that communication is imperative in performing dental treatment on a patient. Another important aspect of that is teamwork. At Delmar Dental, we all work together to ensure the patient’s visit with our staff is an excellent one.
Hours: Monday-Thursday 8am-5pm.
Duraclean by Hester
72 Clinton Street, Albany, 449.5211
Owners: Walter Hester, 73; Jo Ann Hester, 59; Donna Hester, 36
Describe your business: We are a full-service cleaning company that services both residential and commercial clients. We specialize in carpet, furniture, drapery, Oriental rug, ceiling cleaning and janitorial services.
How did you become involved in this industry? Walter saw an advertisement in a magazine for Duraclean cleaning franchises and sent away for information. We were looking for a business that would allow me to work from home and be available for our two daughters. Donna returned to Albany a few years ago to assist in the business as we neared retirement age.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? Both of our parents were farmers with a strong work ethic and desire to remain independent.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Be tenacious and never give up! As with any business you’re going to be faced with a lot of rejection when you’re in the building stage. Never take a “no” personally. Stay abreast of industry trends by reading the many periodicals out there. Motivate yourself with self-improvement and sales tapes. Walter started out each morning listening to Zig Ziglar.
How does having a family fit with running a business? Family has always been an integral part of Duraclean. From the beginning, we involved our daughters in the business. Whether it was stamping postcards, answering phones or accompanying Walter on estimates, Diane and Donna knew early on that running a business is a ‘round the clock labor of love.
What do you like best about working for yourself? The feeling that you control your own destiny. When you’re in the driver’s seat you can determine what projects to pursue, the best clients and employees to work with and how much you want to grow. Over the years we have hired employees that some considered unemployable. Watching them move on to better opportunities has given them a sense of pride. We also love the fact that we were able to raise and nurture two wonderful daughters.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? It is imperative that you bring a sense of passion about what you do to your business. That’s what is going to get you through the long days and frustrating nights.
Hours: We typically work seven days a week, but our official office hours are 8:30am-4:30pm.
104 Wagner Road, Altamont, 861.0070
Owner: David Morin, 48
Describe your business: Kitchen and bath cabinetry contractor for builders, remodelers and homeowners.
How did you become involved in this industry? Thirty years ago, I started working with lumberyards in their kitchen cabinet department. It was a challenge, but nice to see your design in someone else’s kitchen. When people came back to me and said how pleased they were, how workable and practical the kitchen was, it inspired me to go into the cabinetry business.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? A man named Sam. In the 70’s, he managed the kitchen cabinet division at Gerrity Lumber on Railroad Avenue in Albany. As a new designer, I would go to him with different problems and he would solve them. There is a lot of troubleshooting in the kitchen cabinet business, so it was nice to have someone with the know-how give me the guidance I needed.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? It can be a real challenge, but it is a career that is very rewarding. It is not like you are doing the same thing everyday. Every kitchen is different. Every design is different and everyone’s needs are different.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? I get my wife and kids involved. My wife makes sure everything is properly color coordinated. She helps me choose the right colors for countertops and cabinets so that they complement the walls or floors or any living space we are working on. It is nice to work with her because she brings a softer, feminine flair to the work I do and a woman’s point of view when it comes to design. My son is 18 years old and he helps me deliver products to my customers. Together we are able to provide personalized service absolutely no one else can give.
What do you like best about working for yourself? I have free reign to make decisions. If you went to a big box chain store and someone is looking for an immediate decision, you have to go to a supervisor. I am the guy who makes the final decision. I have the flexibility to make a decision in the best interest of my customers.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? In the kitchen cabinet business, it takes years of experience to get it right. In a kitchen, everything is measured to a fraction of an inch and any mistakes destroy the entire kitchen. I always try to measure twice and order once.
Hours: I bring the showroom to you. I work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whenever it is convenient for people to see me, I am there for them.
Earl B Feiden Inc.
785 New Loudon Road (Rt. 9) Latham, 785.8555
661 Broadway, Kingston, 845.331.2230
Owners: E. Bradley Feiden, Mary Feiden, Mark Feiden and Michael Feiden (siblings).
Describe your business: Earl B. Feiden Inc. is a full-service appliance store. We provide our customers with the finest in home appliances to satisfy all tastes and budgets. From traditional home appliances to state-of-the-art professional appliances—we have it all! Our showroom includes fully operational custom kitchen displays, which enable our customers to experience professional cooking equipment.
How did you become involved in this business? Our company was founded in 1926 by our grandparents and evolved from the family’s ice and coal business. Our parents Earl and Josephine Feiden devoted much of their life to building this into a successful appliance business. We saw an opportunity to grow our family business and change with the times.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? The four of us have worked together in the business for over 25 years and have learned the importance of communication. We all have different areas of the business that we are responsible for and together make an unbeatable team.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? Most importantly, at the end of the day we are still a close family with the same priority.
Hours: Latham: Monday-Friday 9am-8pm; Saturday 9am-5pm; Sunday 11am-3pm
Kingston: Monday-Friday 9am-6pm; Saturday 9am-5pm, closed Sunday
East Greenbush Window Coverings
Owner: Lorraine Greaney, 48
Describe your business: Started in 1987, East Greenbush Window Coverings has evolved from a small custom decorating studio to a company primarily focused on window treatments. We provide convenient in-home fabric selection, expert measurement, motorization for most window treatments and a complete installation service. We will help you coordinate fabric and trim with existing furniture and colors, develop floor plans and color schemes, wallpaper selection and accessory placement. Our work can be seen in hundreds of homes throughout the Capital District in addition to projects at Albany Molecular, The Daughters of Sarah Nursing Home, Plug Power, R.P.I., Ellis Hospital and many New York State offices and agencies.
What do you like best about working for yourself? It has been a very positive experience, many times challenging. Running East Greenbush Window Coverings has allowed me to accommodate the demands of a growing family—my husband Mike has a demanding job and works long hours so this was important to us. I truly enjoy my profession because it is an outlet for my creative talents. Visiting my client’s homes or businesses and working with them to create a drapery design or interior environment that they will love to come home to and feel comfortable with is the goal and the challenge. Everyday something new presents itself—the variety of what I do is one of my favorite aspects of the job. I wear many hats from designing interiors to administrative duties at the office.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? The major lesson learned is that change is good—embrace it.
Hours: the studio is open by appointment, but most of our work is done in our clients’ home or office where selecting materials is most crucial due to light and other environmental conditions.
El Loco Mexican Cafe
465 Madison Avenue, Albany, 436.1855
Owner: Marcia Tolive, 45
Describe your business: Mexican southwestern eatery.
How did you become involved in this industry? I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was a waitperson at age 18. I moved to western Colorado in 1982 to work on an archeological project. When the project was completed I got a job in a Mexican Restaurant. This was my first experience with southwestern food and it was the beginning of a long and interesting career.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My parents influenced me in the fact that they were self-employed. My dad was a contractor and my mom did the office work for his business. I saw them work very hard and at all hours of the day and night, whenever something had to be done.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a similar career? Get a job in the restaurant industry before you attempt to start a restaurant on your own.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? It can be difficult, but I have had a great deal of help from my staff, some of which also have families. We help each other out and make sure we don’t miss school functions or major family milestones.
What do you like best about working for yourself? The flexibility and autonomy.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? Keep positive. Always look into the future.
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday dinner. Wednesday-Saturday lunch.
Eyedentity Eyewear L.L.C
1315 Central Avenue, Albany, 459.2638; www.eyedentityeyewear.net
Owners: Marie Coluccio and Loretta Ackerman, (sisters) both in their late 40’s.
Describe your business: Eyedentity Eyewear L.L.C. is a privately owned and operated business that provides quality eye care through eye exams by a licensed optometrist. We carry top shelf optical frames and lenses and customized eyeglass fittings. We will customize your eyewear selection by analyzing your prescription needs, your facial shape, coloring, vocation and avocation. Combined, we have over 60 years of optical experience
How did you become involved in this industry? We picked this industry purely by accident and it has proved to be a truly exciting and rewarding field. We help people to not only see well, but also look good in their new eyewear, most of which are signature pieces of European designs.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? We would encourage a person to go to college for it. They will learn all the aspects of the business from fitting eyeglasses to grinding lenses to the physics of lenses to contact lens fitting. Also, it’s important to take business courses, whether it be accounting, marketing, sales or related retail programs.
How does having a family fit in with running your own business? There is a level of trust that normally would not be there if you were involved with co-workers other than family. Often, with family members you are on the same wavelength when it comes to customer care, service, values and common goals.
What do you like best about working for yourself? Having total control, whether it’s over the hours, product selection, advertising, patient/customer care, etc. We also enjoy personal satisfaction in knowing we’ve built a successful business from nothing with hard work, dedication, a passion for what we love and commitment to a dream.
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
•Define each person’s role.
•Keep a positive attitude.
•Stay focused on the goal(s).
•Try to keep personal and business issues separate.
• Treat people fairly.
• Focus on providing the highest level of customer service.
• Do everything with integrity.
Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9am-5:30pm; Tuesday and Thursday 11am-7pm; Sautrday 9am-1pm (closed Saturdays in July and August).
2141 Central Avenue, Colonie, 393.2274; www.eazylift.com
Owners: Larry, 40, and Suzy Miller, 39
Describe your business: EazyLift Stairlifts is a family owned business committed to providing practical solutions to accessibility issues. Since 1981 EazyLift Stairlifts has installed and serviced the world’s finest stairlifts, wheelchair lifts and residential elevators. That is why health care professionals, surgical suppliers, architects, contractors, and most importantly, our customers repeatedly trust and recommend EazyLift Stairlifts. With over 60 years of combined experience, we have earned a reputation for providing exceptional customer service. We serve customers throughout Upstate New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Southern California. Our partner company, ALIFT, serves the Metro New York area including Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess Counties and Connecticut.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My father has been my biggest influence. He’s taught me that honesty and a genuine sense of always striving to do the right thing—for everybody—is always the best path.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Always be honest and concerned for your customers and you will earn more customers. Employees work with you, not for you! Everything is a team effort.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? I work very long and hard hours. Many times my kids don’t see very much of me during the week, but on weekends, I try to spend as much time as possible with them.
What do you like best about working for yourself? I don’t have to explain ideas to people who lack enough business sense or understanding to take action.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? Quality, service, and honesty win every time.
Hours: Display Center/office hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm; other times by appointment. Service is available 24 hours a day with live operators.
Frank Adams Jewelers
Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, 435.0075; www.frankadams.com
Owners: David Adams, CEO; Rochelle Adams, vice president, Kimberly Adams Russell, COO, 37
Describe your business: Frank Adams Jewelers is an 84-year old and third generation traditional fine jewelry store. We cater to a broad target market base with a wide range of classic and fashion jewelry and watches to fit everyone’s desires. Our business is full service, offering an appraisal lab and all jewelry and watch repair done on premises.
How did you become involved in this industry? I was raised in the jewelry industry—it’s in my blood. After college, I knew joining the family business would be a serious commitment and there would be no turning back once I started. I immediately became involved in many local and industry related organizations and broadened my education to include gemology and other industry related training. I made a commitment to begin to broaden our target market and implement a marketing campaign based on the reputation of heirloom quality jewelry and service already existing in the market place. I then knew that I had found a home in the jewelry industry and in our family business and that my talents would offer a positive balance with my family and together we could grow in the Capital Region.
Was there anyone in particular who influence you? I am very driven from within. Although my family and peers influenced me, I feel the support system that they offer helped make it possible for me to become successful.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? The jewelry industry is a fabulous industry—one full of creativity, passion, happiness and rewards. Our industry is emotion driven, so although there is a lot to learn about technology, fashion, products and service, the most important thing to remember is if business and personal relationships are nurtured and treasured, they will reward you for a lifetime.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? Operating your own business is a very large responsibility, but also a true luxury when it comes to family. Although I work many hours and dedicate my life to the business’s success, my family always comes first. When my son was born I was able to bring him to work with me for the first six months. My family and staff were very attentive and helped make it possible for me to work and take care of him. I also have a successful and supportive husband. Now that I have three children, life is very busy, but the support system is just as wonderful. I feel that a big part of my professional success is the ability to balance my personal and professional life.
What do you like best about working for yourself? The luxury of being able to balance family and career is the greatest part of being in business for yourself.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? First and foremost, when you show respect and work hard, you gain respect. I have learned to treat people, whatever their statue, equally and with integrity. I always try to “do the right thing,” an important lesson I learned from my family. I don’t believe in negative advertising or comparing myself with others. I have learned that it is a waste of time, energy and stress to worry about what others do to affect our business personally or professionally. I have learned that you make your own destiny and you create your own future. When someone or something tries to knock you down, rather than cast blame, I have learned to pick myself up and move forward. I have learned never to cast blame when I make a mistake and I expect others to show the same courtesy. I have learned that true and honest business and personal relationships are hard to come by and should be valued above anything else.
Hours: Monday—Friday 10am- 9pm; Saturday 10am-6pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm.
Mazzone Management Group, Ltd.
One Glen Avenue, Scotia, 374.7262; www.glensandersmansion.com
Locations include: Glen Sanders Mansion, Hall of Springs, Angelo’s 677 Prime and Mansion Catering
Owner: Angelo M. Mazzone, 52
Describe your business: Our four businesses rest on a foundation built by exceeding our customers expectations. We embrace all challenges with a "can do" attitude.We strive to continually make our best even better.
How did you become involved in this industry? I began my career in the hospitality business at the age of 11 working in my grandfather’s pizza shop. When I decided that I had found my niche I solidified my career choice with an associates degree from SCCC’s culinary arts program followed by a B.A in business administration from University at New Haven.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My grandfather, Philip Bellacicco, was a strong influence in my life. He taught me the core values and work ethic it takes to survive in the restaurant industry. Later, while I attended SCCC, Professor Matteo Cassola was equally pivotal. I had been offered the “job of a lifetime” at Union College running their concessions and was prepared to quit SCCC and work full–time for a “huge” salary. With the influence of Professor Cassola, I re-thought my decision, continued on in college and changed the course of my life. Also, Walt Disney has had a tremendous influence on the businessman I have become. I study Disney’s philosophy on customer service and strive for that “magic” in my operations.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Be prepared to work long, hard hours. Always strive to improve on what you are already doing, never stand still. Do anything humanly possible for your customers. Open your business with a nest egg; don’t spend all your money before you open in anticipation of a positive cash flow once you do. Also, I feel that people tend to romanticize both the restaurant business and owning your own business—it’s not all a bowl of cherries. You need to make sacrifices in all aspects of your life, personally and professionally, that are uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? Fitting in family time is one of the most challenging aspects of the hospitality business. I am always working to serve families on holidays instead of being with my own. It has always been, and remains to be a struggle, to be there for my family. You just have to try to do your best.
What do you like best about working for yourself? I find it liberating not to have to guess what a boss would want of me. I feel as if knowing the mission of the company personally is a great advantage in achieving it. I am empowered by knowing I am responsible for driving the company forward and that people depend on me for motivation.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? In order to be an effective leader and to make proper decisions I feel that listening is by far the most important thing I had to learn. By taking the time to listen I learn something new each and every day. Currently I am working on learning to create balance in my life. You have to take time to smell the roses, even if you have just backed over them with the catering truck.
Hours: 24-hours a day—7 days a week—365 days a year
The Geraldine Abrams Team
505 Broadway, Saratoga Springs; 583.1212; www.Geraldine.com
Owners: Larry and Geraldine Abrams, both 50+
Describe your business: We sell residential and commercial real estate.
How did you become involved in this industry? Geraldine got excited about the business when we bought a house and I followed.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? Gail Anderson was Geraldine’s mentor and brought her into the business. Bob Howard and Chris Schmid were also major influences.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? Join a team and invest in your education.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? Our family has adjusted to our unconventional schedule. Additionally, our son became an agent.
What do you like best about working for yourself? The joy of being able to develop business creatively with the freedom to try new ideas.
Have you learned any important lessons along the way? The truth prevails. Always.
Hours: 9am-5 pm, but all of our agents accept phone calls all of the time.
HC Osterhout & Son, Inc.
1127 SR 143, Ravena, 756.6941
Owners: Paul D. Osterhout, 58, and Scott Osterhout, 26 (father and son).
Describe your business: H.C. Osterhout & Son, Inc. is a fifth generation lawn and garden center. We carry a complete line of John Deere products including walk-behind mowers, lawn tractors and lawn and garden tractors, compact tractors, utility vehicles and utility ATV’s. Our goal has been and will continue to be the sale of the highest quality equipment at a fair price, backed by the best parts and service we can provide our customers. We have been here for 75 years and will be here as long as we can keep things going to meet the needs of the industry and our customers.
How did you become involved in this industry? Seventy-five years ago, my great-great-grandparents chose this industry due to the needs of farmers in the community. Many farms needed quality sales, parts and service that were not available in close proximity. At the time the closest dealer was Woods Store in Freehold, NY.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My interest in the business grew as I watched my father run the business over the years.
What advice would you give to others wishing to pursue a similar career? It is a whole different situation today. The idea of starting a dealership would be expensive. It is not as glamorous as it may appear. There are long hours to put in outside of the 8am to 6pm store hours. And with having a family, you are constantly trying to strike a balance between work and family life and most times, you have to meet the demands of the customer much to the sacrifice of other things.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? It’s nicer when you can work with people you have known all your life and not have to worry about who the boss is. Sometimes working as a family can be challenging, but at the end of the day it is nice that everyone is working towards the same goal and hopefully, as a family, we can leave our mark in the community, a legacy that can continue for generations to come.
What do you like best about working for yourself? When you work for yourself you take more pride in your work. You are not doing it for your boss or a bigger company. You have a personal interest in the people you serve. You can answer customer’s questions and deal with them on a one-to-one basis. There is no other reason for doing this than to provide the customer with the best product and service they want.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? The customer always comes first. The reason we are here is to take care of the customer—it’s our number one responsibility.
Hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 8am-6pm; Wednesday 8am-7:30pm; Saturday 8am-1pm; closed Sunday.
Main Square Shoppes, 318 Delaware Avenue, Delmar, 439.9993; www.joyellesjewelers.com
Owner: Mary Vail, age 47
Describe your business: For 15 years, we have been much more than a jewelry store. We sell, repair, design, consign and custom-make jewelry. Whether you are looking for a Kirk Kara necklace, Camille Beckman lotion or perfume by Elizabeth W. From glassware to lamps, we are the perfect gift shop for all your gift needs. We are also on the cutting edge of technology with our laser welder, which allows us to do certain repairs while people wait. We are all women who love jewelry and who better to help choose a gift for other women?
How did you become involved in this industry? I was always interested in art and design. I spent my entire childhood drawing, painting and making things. I like the attention to detail necessary in jewelry making as well as the usefulness, preciousness, and wearability of the art form. I studied jewelry design at Skidmore College in Saratoga and the University of Oregon. I worked on a Masters of Fine Arts in metalsmithing at Indiana University and studied with the Gemological Institute of America. For seven years I worked for Kelly’s Jewelers in Albany.
Was there anyone in particular who influenced you? My biggest influence was Earl Pardon of Skidmore.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue the same industry? Pick either a good fine arts school with a strong jewelry department or go to the Gemological Institute of America, or both.
How does having a family fit in with running a business? When I opened the store I was a single parent. Having my own store gave me the freedom to bring my daughter to work with me when necessary. She had a place to do homework, a small TV and grew up learning about the business. Now, 15 years later she does restringing, designs some jewelry, handles the accounting and assists customers.
What do you like best about working for yourself? The freedom to make your own decisions—if something works or doesn’t, you are responsible.
What important lessons have you learned along the way? It is important to hire people who represent your values well and who you can work well with in a small space. We are like family to each other.
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9:30am-5:30pm; Thursday 9:30am-7pm; Saturday 9:30am-5pm (July and August 9:30-3pm).
2341 Nott Street East (St. James Square) Niskayuna, 382.0292; www.karalinas.com
Owners: Lauryann Scott-Irish, 48, Terry Irish, 49 (husband and wife)
Describe your business: Karalina’s offers the women of the Capital District a wonderful store filled with thousand’s of beautiful and unique items, for themselves, their homes and their gift giving. We feature clothing, accessories, linens and home décor from April Cornell, Mac & Jac, Kenzie, Click, Zutano’s and Bunnies by the Bay. We carry bath and body products from companies such as Jaqua, Get Fresh, Davies Gate, Lucky Chick Linden Leaves, Korres, MOR Cosmetics and others. Karalina’s also carries pottery and crystal from companies such as Zrike, Juliska, Badash and Galway Irish Crystal. Many of the items have been featured in magazines such as Lucky, Shop ETC., W magazine, Marie Claire, In Style, Glamour and others. Karalina’s believes that it truly offers “Simple Beauty for You, Your Home, Your Giving”.
How did you become involved in this industry? Lauryann had experience in the retail apparel industry, and in doing our research we became involved with the April Cornel