STATEN ISLAND LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE DEFINING MOMENTS OF 2023, ALL-TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONGS, AND THE TOP ITEM ON THEIR WISH LISTS THIS YEAR

BY ZACHARY WEG, BLUE SULLIVAN, AND ERIK SCHONING • PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC

ALLYSON WARD
Chief Financial Officer, Hilton Garden Inn, and Hampton Inn &
Suites, The Nicotra Group / officespacestatenisland.com
Allyson Ward, CPA, has built her professional life over a 25-year career with Staten Island’s premier hospitality company, The Nicotra Group. A Port Richmond High School graduate, Ward received her BBA degree from Michigan before attending St. John’s University for her Master of Business Administration degree, at the same time as The Nicotra Group’s COO, Kristine Garlisi, and CFO for Real Estate, Nick Nocerino.
Married for more than two decades, Ward and her husband, Liam, have two children, Ava and Gavin, who have practically grown up at The Nicotra Group. Ava was pulling raffle tickets at three years old at the Daughters of St. Paul Concert, an annual fundraiser hosted by the Nicotras for 25 years. Gavin can often be found in The Nicotra Group offices helping with clerical tasks after school.
“Working for Lois and Richard Nicotra over the last 25 years has been a steady and beautiful presence for my entire adult life,” Ward said. “Just as my children have grown up here, so have I as a professional. I’m focused on spreadsheets and financials; however, the Nicotras’ approach to heightened hospitality is the focus for Team Nicotra, so the real ‘bottom line’ for our team is making our guests and clients happy.”
WHAT WAS THE DEFINING MOMENT OF 2023 FOR YOU?
I’ve worked at the Hilton Garden Inn since it opened, and seeing my daughter, Ava, celebrate her 8th-grade prom in Nicotra’s Ballroom was a beautiful moment for me as a mother and as a professional. I loved that she and her friends were making memories in a place and space where I work each day. A true work-life integration moment!
WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE ITEM ON YOUR HOLIDAY WISH LIST?
My number one wish is to gather with family over the holidays. As a hospitality professional, I am in the business of “making memories,” so finding ways to make memories with my family and friends is my holiday wish.
WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONG?
I must go with the Queen! Mariah Carey’s holiday anthem “All I Want For Christmas is You” is number one every holiday season for a reason. Plus, as a businesswoman, I admire her business acumen; she has turned a song released in my lifetime into a successful holiday classic.

Carla Buonviaggio
Regional Clinical Director, JAG Physical Therapy jagpt.com
A former star college softball player, Carla Buonviaggio is, today, JAG Physical ¬Therapy’s regional clinical director for the Northern Staten Island and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, areas. The Staten Island-born Buonviaggio thrives in helping people, particularly athletes, get back into the game they love. “I noticed that, after my stints in physical therapy, I had probably the best seasons of my athletic career,” she said. “I then got into PT school and fell in love with it. I’ve been in outpatient orthopedics since I graduated.”
Buonviaggio joined the ever-growing JAG operation 14 years ago (today, there are more than 100 JAG Physical and Occupational therapy locations throughout the tri-state area), and she continues to succeed because of her genuine interest in helping patients return to living the lives they love without pain. “Not only am I a physical therapist, but I also oversee five different offices every day throughout the week, so I’m treating my patients but also checking in and working closely with the directors of those offices.”
WHAT WAS THE DEFINING MOMENT OF 2023 FOR YOU?
I think the biggest thing for me was, in December of 2022, my second daughter was born, so 2023 has been a balancing act between how I manage being a mother to children, working a full-time job, and still being successful at what I do.
WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE ITEM ON YOUR HOLIDAY WISH LIST?
A new Apple watch.
WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONG?
“Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses.

Gopal Solanki
Style Consultant, Garmany / garmany.com
America is a country whose foundation, and future growth, are inextricably built upon the contributions of immigrants, those who, through a combination of courage, hard work, and talent, achieve immense personal success and make their new home greater by their efforts. Gopal Solanki is a real-life example of this principle. Growing up in India, he learned the craft of expert tailoring from his father, LJ Solanki. “I learned so much from him at a young age about the fitting and measuring of clients,” he explained. Upon moving to the U.S., Solanki further refined his gifts under the tutelage of his godfather, Larry Garmany. Today, Solanki is the style consultant at Garmany, which he proudly describes as “the finest luxury fashion clothing store in the USA.”
Looking back on his 25-year career with the luxury boutique, Solanki is careful to give credit to those people whose guidance and generosity have made his success possible. “It’s been a wonderful journey that wouldn’t have been possible without Larry and Johnell Garmany. From them, I learned the recipe for success: hard work, self-confidence, self-discipline, flexibility in working with others, quality service, and importantly, realizing that there are goals just as important as money.”
Through each building block of this American success story, Solanki has learned an ethos that is both simple and profound. “Don’t promise something you can’t deliver, trust in your team, and of course, remember that our loyal customers are a family who believes in and trusts you.”
WHAT WAS THE DEFINING MOMENT OF 2023 FOR YOU?
I can’t control when that moment will arrive, but what I can control is what I can do with this moment. For me, every moment is a defining moment because every moment demonstrates who I am today and defines who I will be tomorrow. Wisdom makes every moment.
WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE ITEM ON YOUR HOLIDAY WISH LIST?
Peace on Earth is an all-time favorite.
WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONG?
“All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Barry Maurillo
Co Owner, The Grand Château Hotel / chateaugrande.com
The story of Barry Maurillo is one of dual traditions. Born into a close-knit Italian-American family, Maurillo has carried on the commitment to nurturing strong family ties, and secondly, he’s continued the longstanding legacy of investing in his New Jersey community. His father, Nicholas Maurillo, was an essential part of the Nutley community, serving as the proprietor of the J&N Amoco on Franklin Avenue for over five decades, and Maurillo and his brother, Joseph, launched their first New Jersey restaurant in 1989. ¬ is first venture eventually bred a suite of several restaurants, but Maurillo still harbored an appetite for expansion. In 1995, the Maurillo brothers opened Crystal Caterers and Nightclub in Lyndhurst with their partner (and fellow Nutley-born friend) Vito Cucci. ¬ is partnership was just the beginning. ¬The three have since opened Nanina’s in the Park of Belleville, the Park Savoy Estate of Florham Park, and their newest venture, Park Château Estate and Gardens and the Château Grande Hotel (the latter two set in East Brunswick). While most entrepreneurs overseeing such a vast array of thriving businesses would scarcely find time to give back, Maurillo remains equally proud of the many charitable organizations he takes part in. Among the many awards and recognitions he’s received are the 2007 Columbus Day Parade Business Man of the Year, the 2008 Catholic Charities Humanitarian of the Year, the Essex County Chiefs of Police Distinguished Service Award, the Italian Tribune’s La Famiglia Award, the Belleville Italian American Civic Association Award for Leadership, the 2012 Man of the Year from the Italian American Club, and the 2013 John V. Kelly Memorial Foundation Humanitarian of the Year.
WHAT WAS THE DEFINING MOMENT OF 2023 FOR YOU?
Celebrating my 40th anniversary with the best wife and mother ever, plus welcoming three additional grandchildren, bringing my total to eight wonderful grandchildren.
WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE ITEM ON YOUR HOLIDAY WISH LIST?
Love and health for the family.
WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONG?
“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.

Terence McGouran
General Manager, Rolls Royce Motor Cars of Paramus, Bentley Paramus / rollsroycemotorcarsparamus.com
Terence McGouran already had two decades of automotive experience under his belt when he accepted his current position with Rolls Royce and Bentley in Paramus, though he explained he couldn’t have known then just how different his work would be in this new role. “Our customer experience is unlike any I’ve ever encountered in this line of work,” he explained with pride. “When you make an investment this large in a car, you create a relationship with the people you purchased it from.”
McGouran launched his automotive career in 2002, accepting his first dealership position as a driver/lot attendant. “A lot of people in this business discuss it as their calling, but that wasn’t how I started in this,” he said. “Back then, it was an exciting new opportunity to work for a large auto group locally. I really didn’t know how rewarding and important to my life it would become.”
Today, McGouran explained he’s inspired by his work at the upscale showroom on a daily basis. “My job allows me to do what I love most: building, interacting with, and growing a team. Our customers are more than a transaction to us. In most cases, we are building relationships that will last throughout their lives. Our job is to truly make and foster a genuine human connection with every client we meet and engage with.”
A Bergen County resident since 1985, McGouran and his wife, Lauren, have two children, Isabella (10) and Aiden (6). I wasn’t how I started in this,” he said. “Back then, it was an exciting new opportunity to work for a large auto group locally. I really didn’t know how rewarding and important to my life it would become.”
WHAT WAS THE DEFINING MOMENT OF 2023 FOR YOU?
The defining moment of 2023 for me was accepting my current position within the Paul Miller Auto Group as general manager of Bentley Paramus and Rolls Royce Motor Cars Paramus.
WHAT IS THE NUMBER ONE ITEM ON YOUR HOLIDAY WISH LIST?
I really don’t have a Christmas list.
WHAT IS YOUR ALL-TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY SONG?
My kids love to sing and dance to “Jingle Bell Rock,” so I would say this song.

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