LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS ON THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS, UPCOMING ENDEAVORS, AND WHAT FUELS THEIR OPTIMISM

BY AMANDA McCOY, LAURA KOLNOSKI, AND MATT SCANLON

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 my desk.”

After opening a number of 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 Staten Island’s South Avenue. After hosting conventions and sending potential franchisees to New Jersey hotels because there was no place to stay locally, 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 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 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. Richard Nicotra

WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF A DREAM HOME?
Our house on Staten Island!

ALL TIME FAVORITE MOVIE?
Moonstruck

STEVEN NATKIN
Vice President, William Barthman Jeweler, LTD williambarthman.com

The personal touch is evident in everything father/son duo Jerry and Steven Natkin do at their jewelry business, which began in the Financial District in 1884, predating Midtown’s Diamond District. Early customers included “Diamond Jim” Brady and Lillie Langtry. at legacy continues in today’s Manhattan and Brooklyn locations.

“We love to personally help customers find the perfect watch and jewelry to suit their style and needs, always going the extra mile to provide an intimate and memorable shopping experience,” said Steven, who selects most of the inventory and oversees merchandising. “Hence, they look forward to coming back, and referring family and friends. Attention to detail and offering desirable luxury watch and jewelry brands not available elsewhere in the borough (along with fine crystal), gives their customers the ability to shop where they live and avoid pitfalls in dealing with authenticity from secondary sources or the internet.”

WHAT FUELS YOUR OPTIMISM FOR BROOKLYN?
We were born here, raised here, are raising our children and grandchildren in Brooklyn, and see only positive energy and growth.

WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF THE ULTIMATE DREAM HOME?
A waterfront mansion

NINO MUHATASOV
Co Founder and Managing Partner, MatchPoint NYC / matchpoint.nyc

A career entrepreneur and lifelong athlete, Muhatasov saw an opportunity in 2011 to connect his two primary areas of expertise business ownership and athletics. Along with his friend and partner, Dmitry Druzhinsky, he acquired the lease of the former Brooklyn Racquet Club in Coney Island and transformed the massive three acre space into the most comprehensive (and largest) health and sports complex in the borough.

MatchPoint NYC has since spread to three locations with the additions of the Mill Basin and Bensonhurst (opened in October 2019) outposts, and offers everything from professional grade tennis facilities and fencing to Junior Olympics sized swimming pools and chef curated eats.

“It’s essentially a dream come true,” Muhatasov explained. “My whole day is spent in a sports club. I’m doing something I’ve loved doing my entire life.”

WHAT FUELS YOUR OPTIMISM FOR BROOKLYN?
I’ve lived in Brooklyn for more than 20 years, and to me, it just keeps getting better and better. For many people, New York City is Manhattan. To me, it’s Brooklyn.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Success to me is doing what you love to do and being around people who make you happy.

WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF A DREAM HOME?
A beachfront house with a tennis court on the right and a basketball court on the left.

WHAT OFF WORK ACTIVITY/HOBBY BRINGS YOU JOY?
Playing any sport competitively. I’m a total adrenaline junkie.

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 difficult 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 type of service.

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

FAVORITE MOVIE?
Coming to America.

SAMMY WINEHOUSE
General Manager, Home and Stone homeandstone.com

Seventeen years ago, Winehouse joined Home and Stone, a quickly growing emporium of high end kitchen and bath adornments in Midwood. After three years, he assumed the role of general manager, and has since become an integral part of the showroom’s success, which houses sweeping displays of brands like BainUltra, Dornbracht, and Watermark.

“We’ve been in business since 1984, so our ties here are deep, and we’ve outfitted a lot of beautiful homes in the borough throughout the years,” said Winehouse, who is also a native of the borough. “From a design perspective, I love helping people create a beautiful space.”

Since his Brooklyn patronage demands, as he describes, “the best and most luxurious,” the GM regularly combs the globe for what’s new and cutting edge. is summer, he’s bringing aboard a new product line, and while he can’t yet disclose the name, Winehouse told us he’s condent the “products will dazzle!”

WHAT FUELS YOUR OPTIMISM FOR BROOKLYN?
I grew up here, and it’s come such a long way. It’s really transformed into a hustling and bustling place, and its design scene is stronger than ever. I’m optimistic that Brooklyn will continue to grow in importance.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
I’ll keep it simple: success is setting goals and then achieving them.

WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF A DREAM HOME?
A super modern house in the mountains.

WHAT OFF WORK ACTIVITY/HOBBY BRINGS YOU JOY?
Spending time with my family and kids; taking them out to do fun things like ice skating

Mike Tellone
Owner, Brooklyn Window and Door brooklynwindow.com

After three plus decades in the building materials distribution business, Tellone is able to witness the fruits of his labor every time he steps outside. His family founded Brooklyn Window and Door in 1987, and despite the rise of big box stores and internet giants, the business has evolved into a booming enterprise featuring more than 40 notable brands and the largest stock of Anderson Window and Door products in the tri state area.

“One thing I love about what I do is that I can drive around and see how we’ve contributed to the overall look and curb appeal of Brooklyn,” said Tellone, adding that the borough’s architectural diversity is one of its most enticing attributes. From century old landmark buildings to contemporary developments, Tellone has played a role in enhancing our ever evolving facades.

WHAT FUELS YOUR OPTIMISM FOR BROOKLYN?
Brooklyn is huge right now! The real estate market is flourishing. There is a ton of new construction and I do not see this slowing down. I have met a melting pot of diverse cultures that constitute a motivated and successful clientele from contractors to entrepreneurs to homeowners. There is a vast array of people all motivated to build up the borough and make it an even better place than it already is.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
To me it means any respected, family oriented individual. It has nothing to do directly with money. Any individual who has these values will be successful in their profession, whatever it may be. Success is when someone constantly puts others before themselves for the greater good of the community.

WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF A DREAM HOME?
A modern lake home in the country, or a ski chalet out West.

WHAT OFF WORK ACTIVITY/ HOBBY BRINGS YOU JOY?
In the summertime, I prefer just mellowing out on the beach, while in the winter I go skiing with my family religiously. I’m also a huge sports fan and love going to Nets, Knicks, Yankees, and Giants games

Rebekah Carver
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Douglas Elliman / rebekahcarver.elliman.com/profile

Operating out of Douglas Elliman’s Ditmas Park office and the company’s top producing agent in terms of gross commission income Carver sports a particular strength for handling multiple transactions for the same clients. “It’s common,” her bio reads, “to have some repeat business, but she has helped several clients buy their first property, then sell that to find them an even better one helping them grow their homes right along with their lives.”

Carver was co-owner of Brooklyn Hearth Realty, a full service brokerage, and she and her colleagues there joined Douglas Elliman in 2017. After just six months at the company, she became the number five broker in Brooklyn. In 2018, she became the number one broker for Brooklyn within the company. Her skillset also extends beyond the borough to greater New York and even overseas, where Douglas Elliman partners with Frank Knight, a global real estate consulting firm.

WHAT FUELS YOUR OPTIMISM FOR BROOKLYN?
Brooklyn is constantly restoring its historical gems, like Kings Theater and Gage & Tollner steak house [at the same location since 1892], and repurposing warehouses like Industry City. It’s thrilling to see old buildings and institutions kept alive!

HOW DO YOU DEFINE SUCCESS?
Simply loving your life. If you’re having fun and are loved, you have everything.

WHAT’S YOUR IDEA OF A DREAM HOME?
My own house, but with a lot more amenities! I’m currently thinking about putting a pool in my backyard. I do love a simple beach house, though.

WHAT OFF WORK ACTIVITY/HOBBY BRINGS YOU JOY?
I love a long, hard hike and a long, lazy walk on the beach. It’s pretty easy to dive into a book for hours, too!