A local family business has reopened after a two-year hiatus, just in time for bass season, which began this weekend.
Nick’s Field and Stream in the Bellevue section of Schenectady closed when the owner, Nick A. DiLeva, passed away at the age of 76 in July 2007 after battling cancer. He had opened the bait and tackle shop in 1958.
But his grandson, 19-year-old Nick DiLeva-Cordi, has reopened the family business with the help of relatives.
“I was here every single day of my life and I loved it,” DiLeva-Cordi said. “Every day I wake up and smile knowing it’s reopened.”
The opportunity of one lifetime began with the end of another.
“He passed away in my arms, that’s how close we were,” DiLeva-Cordi said. “He was my best friend, he was my dad.”
His grandmother, Louise T. DiLeva, is teaching DiLeva-Cordi the business’ bookkeeping and other administrative duties as one of the managers. Uncle Tony DiLeva opens the store at 6 a.m. most days, and Aunt Mari DiLeva helps out on weekends.
On the freshly painted walls, individual dollar bills hang, each one signed with the words “good luck” and other well wishes from people in the community. “It’s awesome to see all the old loyal customers come back,” DiLeva-Cordi said, adding that he hopes one day to rebuild the steady stream of familiar faces that filed through the store when his grandfather ran it.
The movement to reopen was a gradual one within the family. It was always DiLeva’s shop, and he hadn’t put any plans in place for who would take over when he was gone. Between their careers and their own lives, none of the family members had time to run the store themselves, or even to decide what to do with it. Eventually, the store went to the grandson who had grown up there.
“They knew I loved it and I didn’t want to see it go,” DiLeva-Cordi said.
In April, grueling, nonstop work began to remodel the ceiling, floors and cabinets and put a fresh coat of paint at 1511 Broadway with the help of four friends — Rob Cagnina, Steve Civitello, Sam Olszewski and Nick Paturso. A cousin, Billy Osta, took time off from his transportation company, Aficionado Limousine, to help out as well. And it was worth it, he said.
“We’re here for the community more than ourselves even though the times are tough,” DiLeva-Cordi said.
Family businesses like Nick’s are part of the 40 percent of U.S. businesses that at any given point may face the transfer of ownership issue — many do not survive because they are not prepared for it.
The U.S. Small Business Administration says less than one-third of family businesses survive the transition from first- to second-generation ownership. Of those that do, about half do not survive the transition from second- to third-generation ownership.
And when it’s time to pass along the family business, only a handful of options exist: Close the doors, sell to an outsider or employee, retain ownership but hire outside management, or retain family ownership and management control. In the case of Nick’s, keeping the business in the family was the path eventually chosen, though it took a while to reach that decision.
But succession plans should be in place well before a crisis period occurs, according to Mike Mathews, associate professor of business administration at The College of Saint Rose in Albany. “It’s something that should be thought about early on to groom a successor,” Mathews said.
Putting something in writing is the most important aspect — and it doesn’t have to be drawn up by a lawyer or even notarized, according to Mathews.
Just as estate planning is done with houses, cars and other assets, the next generation of leadership should be planned for as well. But it’s not often done by most small businesses. As a result, the founder’s descendents are left to pick up the pieces.
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