ISLAND LEADERS IN BUSINESS AND CULTURE, ON THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS, DREAM HOMES, AND FAVORITE FLICKS

BY AMANDA McCOY AND LAURA KOLNOSKI PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH, ALEX BARRETO, AND AMESSÉ PHOTOGRAPHY

Lois Nicotra and Richard Nicotra
Owners, The Nicotra Group LLC / officespacestatenisland.com

When Lois and Richard Nicotra were newlyweds, Lois was working as an elementary school teacher and pursuing a master’s degree, while Richard was building a business, Everything Yogurt.

“When we got married, he was running his first store in Manhattan, and asked me to help with the payroll,” Lois Nicotra said, detailing the Everything Yogurt store that her husband launched on Wall Street in 1976. “We lived in the tiniest two room basement apartment then, and I did it all by hand, sitting on the edge of the bed using the ironing board as a desk.”

After opening a number of company owned stores, Richard began to franchise the Everything Yogurt concept. Eventually it grew to encompass 250 locations nationwide. As the company grew, Lois had a choice: Continue her teaching career or join her husband’s business. She chose the latter.

Their first corporate office was in a building they purchased in Port Richmond. In 1993, they decided to move to a then desolate strip of South Avenue. After hosting conventions and sending potential franchisees to New Jersey hotels because there was no place to stay on Staten Island, the couple began researching the complexities of opening a hotel in the borough. After years of planning and construction, The Hilton Garden Inn opened in September of 2001 four days after the horrific events of September 11th.

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In spite of the tragedy, the hotel managed to thrive. Today, in addition to the 200 room Hilton Garden Inn, the Nicotras’ Corporate Park encompasses 10 Class A office buildings, Nicotra’s Ballroom & Conference Center, Above, Above Rooftop, Lorenzo’s Restaurant Bar & Cabaret, and the 200 room Hampton Inn & Suites.
Corporate Commons Three, which is currently under construction, will feature 330,000 square feet of Silver LEED certified office space and a social enterprise restaurant, Pienza, Brick Oven Pizza Café, which will donate 100 percent of its profits to Staten Island charities, mirroring the philanthropic model at their COMMONS café.

Together, they own The Nicotra Group, Staten Island’s largest private real estate development company.

WHAT’S YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
To put it simply, we are at our best when we are together. We each bring different talents to the table, but it’s more than that our talents, our goals, and our vision of what we can reach is enhanced because we are sitting at the table side by side, and because of the special love we share; there is no greater gift than working with and being married to your best friend.” Lois Nicotra Many people ask how it is to work side by side, seven days a week for four decades with my wife, and we know this is unique. What I do know for sure is that none of what we have built the Hilton Garden Inn, the Hampton Inn & Suites, the Corporate Park, the Everything Yogurt Company that we started in College, our company buildings, or the expansions we are investing in now… none of it would have happened without Lois in step next to me. She is my partner in every definition of that word.

WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF A DREAM HOME?
Our house on Staten Island! WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE? Moonstruck.

Philip Mancuso, Esq.
Managing Member, Mancuso & Associates Law, PLLC / mancusopllc.com

Philip Mancuso, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Staten Island, has been a lawyer for 16 years. In 2011, he opened Mancuso & Associates Law, PLLC in Staten Island, although the firm serves the entire tri state area. Its services include real estate, estate planning, business and transactional law, and stands out from other law firms, he said, “thanks to its diligence, hard work, and responsiveness to clients. We’ve grown the practice exponentially, and the relationships we have with our clients and within the community have flourished.”

And, given Mancuso’s passion for law and determination, he anticipates no slowing down. “I like helping people protect and take care of their families and resolve issues,” he said. “I also like helping families get ahead and chase the American dream.”

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
Diligence and sincerity.

YOUR IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE DREAM HOME?
Something in the woods far away from the daily grind.

YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE?
Gladiator.

Lou Tobacco
President and CEO, Monsignor Farrell High School / msgrfarrellhs.org

Tobacco has been passionately serving the Staten Island community his whole life. “I was always driven to public service,” he said.

Over the years, he’s been a proud Eagle Scout, a successful pharmaceutical salesman, a ranking member on the Health Committee for three terms as part of e New York State Assembly, and the former Associate Executive Director at Staten Island University Hospital for Community and Government A airs, where he secured $40 million in FEMA funding for the power plant mitigation project at the hospital after Superstorm Sandy.

Today, the family man serves as the first ever president and CEO at his alma mater, Monsignor Farrell High School. In this role, Tobacco focuses on faith, finances, facilities, and fundraising.

“A lot of the experiences that I had during my four years at Monsignor Farrell High School shaped me and gave me a strong foundation of skill sets that I have been able to take to all the professions I’ve worked in throughout my life,” he said.

As for the future, Tobacco shared that he’s focused on his current position and the establishment’s five year and $12 million capital campaign called “Strengthen the Legacy,” which will invest in technology, facility modernization, endowment, and scholarships for the school.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
Communication. Without that, you don’t have anything. Getting the word out, relating, and listening is extremely important. And it’s not just what you put out, but what you listen to that’s key.

YOUR IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE DREAM HOME?
One filled with family, packed with a large refrigerator and pantry to capacity, and in walking distance to a beach.

YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE?
I love Mel Brooks, so History of the World, Part I.

Eric Eremita
Celebrity Contractor of HGTV’s hit shows Brother vs. Brother and Love It or List It / @ericeremita

Eremita was an award winning general contractor and interior designer in Staten Island for over 25 years when his clients started pushing him to try out for television. In 2013, he made his first appearance on season two of Brother vs. Brother, featuring “The Property Brothers,” Jonathan and Drew Scott. After fiishing as runner up, HGTV noticed Eremita and named him the main contractor for its hit series, Love It or List It.

He appeared on the latter show for over 70 episodes, and in 2018, the series scored its best ratings in nearly five years with over 17 million viewers. The celebrity contractor decided to depart Love It or List It this season to expand his TV career, although he’s still appearing in reruns airing in the U.S. and more than 10 other countries.

The home show guru is excited about what’s next for him, including the upcoming Memorial Day launch of his own apparel line, THIRTEEN by Eric Eremita, which will feature casual and dressy lines for men, women, and children.

“The reason I stepped off the show is to go after my own TV endeavor,” he revealed. “Stay tuned for what might be coming.”

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
Knowing the best next move.

YOUR IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE DREAM HOME?
On the beach. I’d like to be in Lake Como [in Italy].

YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE?
I have two favorites completely opposite of each other, but if they’re ever on I have to watch them. The Godfather and Easy Money, with Rodney Dangerfield. Ironically, both movies were filmed on Staten Island!

Gary C. Angiuli
Founder and Managing Partner, Angiuli & Gentile, LLP / aglawnyc.com

When he’s not advising clients on business formation and corporate structure, Angiuli can be found working on local community endeavors donating his time to the Boy Scouts of America, the Staten Island chapter of the March of Dimes, and the Seamen’s Society for Children and Families. He is also a former board member of the St. George eatre, the College of Staten Island Foundation, Meals on Wheels, and the Staten Island YMCA.

As founder and managing partner of Angiuli & Gentile, LLP, his professional passion is advising entrepreneurs, serving as the supervising partner of his firm’s Business, Franchise, and Real Estate Group. In this role, he mentors those who want to purchase or sell businesses, providing comprehensive legal analysis at all stages of their transactions. He is also the developer of Minthorne Street, the 33,000 square foot warehouse style North Shore facility that formerly housed his father’s automobile service center. Angiuli has repurposed this entire collection of buildings, which spans a full city block, creating a charming retail space.

A graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, he received his Juris Doctor from the American University, Washington College of Law and was admitted to practice law to the New York Bar in 1984.

Angiuli has personally negotiated leases involving hundreds of thousands of feet of commercial office space in the New York City area and has advised numerous franchisors as well as franchisees, assisting them with every aspect of their ventures.

A member of the Richmond County Bar Association, where he serves on the Judiciary Committee, and a former member of the Association’s Board of Directors, he has lectured extensively on franchising, commercial leasing, and workers’ compensation.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
My parents instilled in me that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Using this as my guide and in every business endeavor I am involved in, I focus on creating an extraordinary experience for the end user, whether it’s a craft brewery or a unique repurposing of a warehouse. Our goal every day is to create raving fans, and we focus daily on bringing the extraordinary to every business we touch.

YOUR IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE DREAM HOME?
A 20 room villa on the Italian Riviera, probably in Santa Margherita or Portofino, where I could invite friends and loved ones to visit for weeks at a time.

YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE?
2001: A Space Odyssey, because Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick were 50 years ahead of their time in asking questions about out of control artificial intelligence before anybody even knew what artificial intelligence was.

Jerry Amerosi, Sr.
Owner and President, Gerald Peters / geraldpetersinc.com

This executive has been providing the Staten Island and Brooklyn communities with the nest jewelry for over 30 years. Today, he remains in the business as the owner and president of Gerald Peters in the Staten Island Mall. The fine jewelry store is a Rolex authorized dealer that also specializes in gold, diamonds, wedding bands, engagement rings, and much more. The company was given the first Family Business Award by Crain’s New York Business in 2018, and was also named one of the Best Jewelers in Staten Island in a reader’s poll in the Staten Island Advance for three years. The most special part of Amerosi’s store, he said, is that he runs it with his two sons, Gerald and Peter, which means a lot to him. “I really enjoy it. At one point, I was mentoring them, and now they mentor me,” he said. The family owned business only foresees growth from here. “We always want to better ourselves,” the jeweler added. “Right now, we try to have the best service and brands. We want to be honest and give the experience that Staten Islanders deserve.”

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
I’m very fair and I understand what employees need. Working for me is a career more than a job because people work here for a very long time, some 10, 20, even 30 years.

YOUR IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE DREAM HOME?
A great space on a beach in an area that’s secluded, but also close enough to restaurants and entertainment. I would like to just relax and be able to go out for a nice meal. I would want to be in America or somewhere close, like the Caribbean.

YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE?
Rocky. This movie always stuck out to me because this was a person who had a goal to go the distance, and that’s the story of people in their career; you pick a goal and then have to fi gure out the road map. I related to that because I was at a crossroads in my career at that point [when the film was made].

Bobby Pasquale
Owner, Pool Doctor / pooldoctorsi.com

“Anything that has to do with swimming pools and spas whether above ground, in ground, or semi in ground, we take care of it,” noted Pasquale, owner of Tottenville based Pool Doctor. “Installation, maintenance, repairs, or renovations. If it has to do with a swimming pool or spa, we’ve got it covered.”

Pasquale, whose family has owned a pool store for generations, was not initially drawn to the business, but started working in it out of necessity.

“They sold the pools but didn’t install, so that’s how I got involved,” he said. “This is a seasonal business, and it was di cult to find workers who were committed. After working for just a season or two, I saw an opportunity. Staten Island Pool owners needed reliable service and maintenance. That’s when I launched Pool Doctor.”

Offering everything from surveying and design to excavation, build, and completion, the company features a staff of certified technicians who have years of hands on experience. And since the business owns its own excavating equipment, it also provides commercial and residential snow removal in the winter.
“There’s a lot of long hours, but I truly enjoy this industry,” Pasquale said. “I love working outdoors and love being able to create these special spaces for homeowners.”

GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
Honesty and integrity. Showing up, answering my phone, and doing the job at the agreed price. It sounds simple, but not every businessman provides that.

DREAM HOUSE?
Any home in Miami or South Florida generally.

FAVORITE MOVIE?
Coming to America.

Cesar Claro
President and CEO, Staten Island Economic Development Corporation / siedc.org

In his role at the SIEDC, Claro connects the private and public sectors on Staten Island to promote economic development opportunities. It’s a job he has held for the past 25 years.

With a primary focus of attracting new investments and creating more jobs, Claro manages a staff of 13 and an operating budget of over $2 million. He oversees 30 programs, projects, and events, and has attracted more than $2 billion in private investment to the borough, creating 15,000 plus new jobs and redeveloping more than 7,000 acres of previously vacant property during his tenure. Claro is also credited with creating the SIEDC’s annual Business Conference, its Health & Wellness Expo, and its Green & Clean Festival.

Under Claro’s leadership, the SIEDC launched multiple levels of membership and now boasts more than 200 members. Since 2014, he has launched several Business Improvements Districts, more than any other individual in the history of the City of New York. He also serves as executive director of the Richmond County Savings Foundation, which has funded in excess of $65 million in grants to thousands of not for profits in the tri state area. Cesar has created and launched public art projects, as well as secured partnerships with high profile grantees.

Lastly, he’s served on then mayor elect Michael Bloomberg’s transition team, and was Governor Cuomo’s Staten Island appointee to the Regional Economic Development Council for NYC, and served on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Workforce Training Taskforce.

In his spare time, he enjoys playing softball and watching the Mets with his three sons, Chris, Matthew, and Brandon, and going on trips with his daughter, Caroline.

WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST BUSINESS STRENGTH?
My creative skills. Every program, project and, event on the SIEDC menu I created from scratch.

YOUR IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE DREAM HOME?
A cabin on a hill with a large fireplace within driving distance of great golf courses.

ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE?
The Pope of Greenwich Village.