Every town has its share of mom-and-pop stores and decades-old businesses. “Family-owned” is seen across billboards and storefronts throughout the Capital Region, displaying the prominence of family and community ties.
Working with Dad can have its ups and downs, according to those involved in such businesses. They agreed, though, that working with your family is ultimately more rewarding than a typical job.
Frank Gallo & Son Florist
Sports was always the name of the game for Frank Gallo Jr., who joined his father’s retail florist business in 1984. As a kid, Gallo said he didn’t spend much time at his father’s shop. Instead, he spent much of it pursuing his interest in sports, something he shared with his father.
The two eventually became business partners in Frank Gallo & Son Florist, and while it was difficult at first, Gallo said working in a family business is extremely rewarding.
Their conventional father-son dynamic changed when Gallo went to work with his father.
“We evolved into partners, and from a personal standpoint, sometimes it was straining on our relationship. You have to learn to separate the personal and professional,” he said.
The business has since grown large enough — there are now locations in Albany, Clifton Park and Schenectady — for the two to work on different parts of the business, something Gallo said is key to their relationship.
“We definitely do things separately, but we also go to each other for different opinions,” he said. “He has a lot of valuable experience, something that I’ve benefited from, and I’m a younger person with a newer perspective. We feed off one another.”
Gallo said he has gained invaluable life lessons since coming to work with his father, as well as a bond strenghtened by time spent together. The two still share a deep passion for sports and have a stronger relationship than ever, at work and at home.
“We know that some things have to be done and said in a professional setting, things that can’t be taken personally, and that has made our relationship stronger,” he said.
Sal’s Quality Market
Over the sounds of quiet machinery and friendly banter, William Sindoni explained that being the owner of a local landmark and weekly stop for shoppers “is a life, not a business.” Even as a kid learning the secrets from his hardworking father and grandfather, the family business was always a lifestyle.
Sal’s Quality Market is a multi-generational family business run with the same old-world hospitality as the family’s first business, which opened in Schenectady in 1900 and was owned by Sindoni’s grandfather, Antonio.
Sal Sindoni, William’s father, followed in Antonio Sindoni’s footsteps when he opened his own small grocery store and meat market in Rotterdam, which William Sindoni eventually took over.
Today, William Sindoni runs Sal’s with his son Michael, wife Jo and nephew James. Working with his family is nothing like work, he said, calling his current staff the best he’s had since buying the shop from his father in 1977.
The staff has become a part of Sindoni’s extended family of sorts, and he said their spirit makes the customers happy and the days enjoyable, which is especially important when so much time, personal and professional, is spent together.
For some, starting a new venture is more appealing than joining the family business. William Sindoni’s younger son went in a different direction with his career, as did Rick Bowman, heir to his family’s local apple orchard.
Instead, Bowman started Collision Experts nearly 27 years ago, and after decades of success, his son Ben has plans to join him.
With only a 30 percent survival rate for second-generation family businesses, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, Bowman solicited the opinions of other family business owners, as well as relying on his own experiences working at the apple orchard, to find the best approach to introducing his son to the business.
Bowman decided his son would move up the ranks like any other employee, eliminating any sense of entitlement by putting him to work under a different manager.
But Bowman pushes his son more than the typical employee, to make sure he is ready to take on the business in the future and know the risk involved with passing ownership to another family member.
Rick D’Errico, Collision Experts’s public relations representative, said Ben and his father’s relationship is strong and Ben looks up to his father in every aspect of business, family, and parenthood.
“You can tell Ben really wants to be there with his dad, for years to come. The two even look identical,” D’Errico said.
Shane Spillenger has been working with his father, Ralph, in his various Bayou Café locations from a young age. Instead of day care, he spent afternoons tagging along as his father worked the restaurants, met with employees and took care of other aspects of the business.
As soon as he was old enough, Shane Spillenger went to work bussing tables and doing dishes, working his way up to management. He knew from a young age he wanted to be a part of his father’s businesses, but when Jillian’s proved to cost more than it was worth and changes began for restaurant and bar owners in downtown Albany last year, the family decided to leave Albany altogether to focus on their other locations.
“I did sales jobs for a while, trying to do something else, but then the opportunity arose in Malta and it was something I’ve always wanted, so I hopped on it,” he said.
That opportunity is the family’s latest venture, a new Bayou Café on Route 9 in up-and-coming Malta. This time, however, Spillenger is the boss, working as general manager of the new location.
“My dad likes telling everyone that I’m his boss, but now that he and my mother are getting older, I’m hoping we can relax after these last couple years of turmoil,” Spillenger said.
But the years of hard work built a stronger relationship between Spillenger and his father. The newest location is close to his parents’ home, and Spillenger looks forward to more time spent together.
“I love my dad,” he said. “Obviously working together can be stressful, but a lot of people don’t get to experience that, and it’s been really great.”