STATEN ISLAND LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE THE GREATEST REWARDS OF THEIR CAREER, FAVORITE SUMMERTIME ACTIVITIES, AND ULTIMATE FITNESS ICONS

BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN AND AMANDA MCCOY PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH, ALEX BARRETO, AND TOM ZAPCIC

 

 

 

Chris Williams Owner, Williams Eye Works / williamseyeworks.com

Chris Williams was only 14 years old when he took a job as the “cleaning kid” at Cohen’s Optical in the Staten Island Mall. A high school freshman, he worked at the shop a few days per week, gradually expanding his duties from dusting and answering phones to assisting the store’s master shopman. By the time he was 16, Williams was making glasses and earning a full-time wage.

“I remember the moment I decided to pursue this as a career,” he said, detailing a second job he kept as a waiter in a local Italian restaurant. “I left Cohen’s on a Saturday night to go and wait tables and the shift was just a mess; the owner pitched a t over some spaghetti and there was just chaos in the kitchen. I thought to myself, ‘It’s so peaceful when I’m just making glasses.’ So I quit the restaurant biz and never looked back.”

Shorecrest Spread

Williams earned his optician’s license in 1988 the same year he married his high school sweetheart and opened his own store seven years later. Williams Eye Works expanded again in 1998 to Westerleigh, where it remains today. In his two decades of business, Williams has grown his shop to include more than a dozen full-time employees, including opticians and medical billing specialists, and two optometrists. He has also played an integral role in the community serving as a Boy Scout Leader and Rotarian.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST REWARD OF YOUR CAREER?
I think self-governance. Owning your own business allows you a lot of freedom, you just have to learn not to abuse it.

FAVORITE OUTDOOR SUMMERTIME ACTIVITY?
Walking in the woods.

WHO IS YOUR FITNESS ICON?
’m not a fitness fanatic but I do admire the way my son John takes such good care of himself. He’s extremely health conscious and watches everything he eats.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dr. Noreen Kamal-Mostafavi, M.D. Minimally Invasive Gynecologist and Aesthetic Medicine Specialist noreenmostafavimd.com

Dr. Mostafavi, board certified in gynecology with specialization in minimally invasive surgery, aesthetic medicine, cosmetic gynecology, and advanced liposuction surgery, knew early on she would pursue a career in medicine. In high school, she recalled thinking, “Medicine has an international language; wherever you are, you understand each other.” After graduating residency from Saint Luke’s Roosevelt Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, she then joined a robust OB/GYN private practice group in her New Jersey hometown, where she specialized in minimally invasive surgery with certifications in the Da Vinci Robot System. It was there she developed her love of aesthetic medicine and traveled near and far to gain the expertise from all the top aesthetic specialists in the world. Dr. Mostafavi explained that she believes incorporating different techniques from top specialists and continuously keeping abreast of the latest advancements is what makes her aesthetic techniques unique and non-reproducible.

Dr. Mostafavi opened her self-titled practice in Staten Island in 2019, where today the mother of two offers advanced laparoscopic, cosmetic gynecology, and aesthetic surgery in her chic, Manhattan-like office. A “Jack of all trades and master of all,” the doctor offers virtually every aspect of women’s health and aesthetic needs. Her goal, she noted, is to help patients with their overall well-being, not just gynecological well-being.

“I also enjoy making people feel pretty and confident about themselves. My motto is: I want to turn back the clock, not to change any of my patient’s unique God-given attributes.”

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST REWARD OF YOUR CAREER?
I know this sounds cliche, but helping patients. I especially love the field of minimally invasive surgery; imagine doing major surgery on a patient and the patient going home the same day? Game changer.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE OUTDOOR SUMMERTIME ACTIVITY?
Summertime, what’s that? It’s definitely challenging breaking away from work life but I would say just taking my four year-old and four-month-old for a walk in the park brings me plenty of joy.

WHO IS YOUR FITNESS ICON?
During the pandemic, I hopped on the bandwagon and got a Peloton Bike. And there is a particular instructor, Cody Rigsby, that is simply motivating and inspiring. I always end my ride feeling positive and motivated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Latrice A. Akuamoah, M.D. Anesthesiologist and Pain Management Physician, The Spine and Pain Institute of New York / spinepainny.com

Born and raised in Chicago, Dr.Akuamoah, a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician, uses an evidence based multimodal approach when treating patients, recommending behavioral therapy, physical therapy, medications, and cutting edge minimally invasive procedures when necessary to improve their quality of life.

“As an anesthesiologist I was an advocate for patients in the OR, staying with them through surgery and allowing them to complete painful procedures without experiencing any sort of trauma,” said Dr. Akuamoah. “Working in pain management is an extension of that but it allows me to build a relationship with patients.

Instead of just meeting someone once, wishing them well, and then walking away, I can now build a rapport that’s what I truly love about this position.”

A graduate of the University of Rochester with a degree in molecular genetics, Dr. Akuamoah earned her medical degree and master of public health at Tulane University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in anesthesiology at Mount Sinai Hospital followed by a fellowship in interventional pain management at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Dr. Akuamoah has expertise in the treatment of painful conditions of the back and neck, including sciatica, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, arthritis, and continued pain after spine surgery. She also specializes in treating chronic joint pain, headaches, and neuropathic pain. At the Spine and Pain Institute she focuses on spinal cord stimulation.

Named to the New York Times Super Doctors’ rising stars list, Dr. Akuamoah is also a clinical assistant professor in anesthesiology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell and assistant attending at the NYU Langone Hospitals. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, watching the latest TV show, and spending time with her family. While she enjoys a New York pizza slice, she still prefers Chicago-style deep dish.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST REWARD OF YOUR CAREER?
Working with patients who have been in chronic pain for years and being able to offer them some sort of relief.

FAVORITE OUTDOOR SUMMER ACTIVITY?
I love everything about the summer. During the warm months you can find me at the park or the beach anyplace outdoors in the heat.

WHO IS YOUR FITNESS ICON?
No one famous but my yoga instructor has changed my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frankie Brusco Owner, Patricia’s of Holmdel and Gabriella’s Italian Steakhouse patriciasofholmdel.com / gabriellasnj.com Over Easy Kitchen / oekitchen.com

Frankie Brusco ventured into the restaurant business in 2015, delivering his vision of superior dining to Monmouth County residents.

“I love Italian food,” noted the owner of Patricia’s of Holmdel and Gabriella’s Italian Steakhouse in Red Bank. “Since I was a kid we cooked and jarred tomato sauce, made our own wine, and had a yard full of tomato plants, string beans, squash, zucchini flowers, and flags. The food I serve in my restaurants is what I grew up with. These are recipes you cannot find anywhere else.”

A salesman by trade, Brusco worked in the commercial printing business for years, closing deals with clients over breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a variety of local restaurants. After spending so much of his time in the eld, he quickly learned exactly what he liked and disliked while dining out.

“I wanted my restaurants to be very upscale,” said Brusco, describing the cherry wood tables, black crystal chandeliers, and crisp white tablecloths that decorate his spaces.

At Patricia’s, originally a 5,000-squarefoot pizzeria nestled in the corner of Holmdel Commons oRoute 35, Brusco transformed a coveted space in one of the town’s premier shopping centers to accommodate his vision. When he opened Gabriella’s Italian Steakhouse two years ago, he pumped more than $2 million into a former Bone fish Grill to create the perfect gourmand atmosphere.

Both restaurants are locally acclaimed for their innovative dishes think homemade squid-ink linguine with baby cockle clams, shrimp, olives, and capers, and pots of Nonna’s Sunday sauce, filled with homemade braciole, Italian sausage, veal, beef, and pork meatballs and simmered in San Marzano tomatoes.

“We offer a little something for everyone,” added Brusco.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST REWARD OF YOUR CAREER?
Having two of the top restaurants in all of New Jersey. Patricia’s has been voted the best BYOB in Monmouth County and Gabriella’s is currently one of the state’s hotspots.

FAVORITE OUTDOOR SUMMERTIME ACTIVITY?
I love the beach. During the summer I spend as much time as I can outdoors.

WHO IS YOUR FITNESS ICON?
David Weck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pete Marcolini Co-owner, Aunt Butchie’s / auntbutchiesofbrooklyn.com

After more than two decades in the food distribution business, Pete Marcolini decided to change lanes. Partnering with Frank Santo, the owner of Aunt Butchie’s Bake Shop in Brooklyn, and his longtime pal Joe Pernice, they crafted a small extension of the Brooklyn bakery on a quiet strip of Arthur Kill Road, where they served a light menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads. As the eatery grew in popularity, Marcolini, lovingly referred to as the “unschooled chef” by his partners, expanded the offerings.

“When I was delivering Italian specialties I was always in and out of these kitchens and I used to watch them cook,” said Marcolini, referring to his daily trips to delis, hotels, and specialty stores. “I had also cooked for years with my grandfather so I’ve always had a passion for food.”

Marcolini’s recipes were a hit with Aunt Butchie’s Staten Island customers, who came in for gourmet dessert and coffee and stayed for lunch and then dinner.

“Customers liked the food and then we started experimenting. Meatballs and pasta were the next natural step, and then as the store expanded I started making some of my old-world family recipes like osso bucco and tripe.”

Aunt Butchie’s soon expanded to a second and then a third storefront with the launch of a New Jersey location in 2018. “I never imagined we’d become this big,” said Marcolini. “I love that my grandfather’s recipes are being shared with so many people. It’s honestly a dream come true.”

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST REWARD OF YOUR CAREER?
When customers become friends.

FAVORITE OUTDOOR SUMMERTIME ACTIVITY?
I’m always in the kitchen but I like to relax by the pool.

WHO IS YOUR FITNESS ICON?
The great Joe Rollino. He was one of the original Coney Island strongmen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Stout Owner, Stout Building and Remodeling / stoutbuild.com

When Chris Stout launched his home improvement business two decades ago, he started out as a “one man, one truck” operation, performing small kitchen and bath renovations throughout the borough. His company grew gradually as he tackled bigger projects, building an impressive portfolio of roof raises, spec projects, and large scale commercial jobs. Today the contractor has a staff of 25 and is well known throughout the Island for his impressive builds and quality service.

“Our main focus is to get the job done efficiently and create something that is unique to each homeowner’s taste and style,” said Stout. “We pride ourselves on extremely dedicated service and like to add a design element to our builds which sets us apart from other contractors.”

Currently active in multi-family real estate investing, Stout has plans to grow the business even further, with sights set on tackling projects in New Jersey and beyond.

“I started this business by taking an ad out in the Marketeer,” he added. “I could have never anticipated how much it would grow in such a short amount of time. I can’t wait to see how it will continue to develop in the future.”

Born and raised in Great Kills, Stout currently resides in Prince’s Bay with his wife and three children.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST REWARD OF YOUR CAREER?
I love what I do. But owning my own business allows me the freedom to spend more time with family and invest in other opportunities.

FAVORITE OUTDOOR SUMMERTIME ACTIVITY?
Boating with the family visiting various private beaches.

WHO IS YOUR FITNESS ICON?
I don’t have one particular icon but I’m an avid cross fitter and attend Outer bridge Cross Fit with my wife every day.