STATEN ISLAND LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE LESSONS FROM THEIR FIRST JOBS, FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL STYLES, AND THE TOP AMENITIES IN THEIR DREAM HOME

BY JACHARY WEG, BLUE SULLIVAN, AND AMANDA McCOY PHOTOS BY TOM ZAPCIC

 

Jeff Troost

Co-Owner, Troost Bros. Home Renovations / troostbros.com

A proud native Staten Islander, Jeff Troost is a man who gets things done. Alongside his brother Scot, Troost leads Troost Bros., a full-service home remodeling firm that specializes in everything from simple window repairs to large-scale home additions. He’s in the business of making a client’s dream house a reality. “Interacting with people, customers, employees, and different trades is a reward,” said Troost, who’s passionate about his work. “Both my brother and I as young teenagers had done many kinds of projects throughout the home, from framing and sheetrocking to taping, painting, and lighting. It helped us understand how things come together in a home.”

After graduating from college with a degree in architecture, Troost came back to his passion for homebuilding. He began remodeling houses in Staten Island in the late ‘90s, and today he has as many as 12 open projects at a time, a busy plate that continues to feed his ardor for the process.

INVESTORS SPREAD

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

One of my first jobs as a boy was sanding and painting the bottom of a 65-foot boat while on dry dock. This took me ten hours on Saturdays and six hours on Sundays for three weekends in a row. If I remember correctly, I made $100 for all my hard work, which I really didn’t complain about. But what I realized is that I had the ability to follow through, not quit, and be assured that the owner was satisfied. I also learned I would need improvement on how to negotiate a handshake deal.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL/DESIGN STYLE?

When working towards my B.S. in architecture, one of my favorite styles was created by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He had a unique style that was evident in his residential construction. Prairie style was what it was called and, to me, it stood apart from the standard. It reflected simplicity, nature, and quality craftsmanship. As years went by, I always appreciated the efforts FLW took from concept into completion.

FOR YOU, WHAT IS THE TOP LUXURY AMENITY IN YOUR DREAM HOME?

If I had to choose a luxury amenity for my dream home, it would have to be situated with a temperature-controlled walk-in wine cellar that houses approximately 500 bottles of both red and white award-winning wines along with a separate storage locker that holds the finest Cuban cigars. Of course, this room would be adjacent to my ten-car garage complete with an epoxy coated, radiant heated floor.

 

Sean Thomas, PT, DPT

Clinical Director, JAG PT Georgetown / jagpt.com

Sean Thomas always knew he wanted to be a doctor, but it wasn’t until he underwent a pair of knee surgeries in high school and college that he realized the transformative power of physical therapy. Captain of the Division I track and field team at Brown University, Dr. Thomas got injured playing basketball the summer before his senior year of college and spent the entire fall semester in PT. He stunned everyone when he was ready to compete again by the spring, and he became the top-ranked triple jumper in the conference. “I never counted me out,” he recalled. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to pursue physical therapy.”

After graduating from SUNY Downstate Medical Center with his doctorate in physical therapy in 2011, Dr. Thomas joined JAG PT in 2012 and today leads the Georgetown office in Brooklyn. “At JAG PT, every office is different, but we all are dedicated to helping people get back to the life they love,” noted Dr. Thomas, who also serves as JAG’s director of community engagement and inclusion. A seven-time marathoner, Dr. Thomas is also the coach and team doctor for the Spartan Sundays Running Club, and he hosts complimentary weekly workouts in the Georgetown facility before it opens. “People come into our office not just for therapy, but for the camaraderie, the music, the positive energy. They feel part of a larger family.”

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

My first job was mowing lawns. I learned discipline and hard work does not come easy.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL/DESIGN STYLE?

Contemporary design. It complements my connection to the environment, cultural diversity, and technology, all things that are relevant today.

FOR YOU, WHAT IS THE TOP LUXURY AMENITY IN YOUR DREAM HOME?

The kitchen. I’m from a big family, and family starts and ends in the kitchen.

 

Brittany Felice

Event Planner, The Vanderbilt at South Beach vanderbiltsouthbeach.com

For event planner Brittany Felice, finding her professional calling was a bit serendipitous. During her junior year of college, she was still undecided on what major to pursue. Then Fashion Week arrived, and fortune guided her into the role she adores today. “Each year, my school hosted a fashion show headed by a senior,” she said. “Sadly there were none willing to take the responsibility, so I took on the role with excitement. After the adrenaline of coordinating the DJ and lighting, long hours of rehearsals, and all other logistics, I knew this was the field I needed to be in.” Today, Felice plans events for The Vanderbilt at South Beach, The South Fin Grill, and The Grand Oaks Country Club, still fueled by the same level of excitement. “After 14 years, I still love the fast pace of the work environment. I appreciate that each event is unique.”

Despite her vast success, Felice is careful to give credit to those who helped her make this dream possible. “My mother Fran and my late father Robert were/are my biggest fans,” she said. “I’ve also had the pleasure of working with incredible people. [Fellow event planner] Margaret Addivinola took care of me from the moment I stepped into the Vanderbilt. Her friendship, kindness, patience, and words of wisdom throughout the years are something I will cherish forever. ”

Her clients also make each day worth it, she said, adding, “Working with people on their most important occasion is truly so special to me.”

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

Aside from baby-sitting, my first job was working as a stylist at BEBE, a women’s clothing store. This job taught me how to deal with the public and adapt to change quickly. In working this job I was able to sharpen my sales skills and be able to communicate with my clientele to find them exactly what they were looking for, not much different than what I am doing today!

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL/DESIGN STYLE?

This is a tough one but I think I am most drawn to medieval architecture. There is something about the intricacy and detail of this style that is both captivating and impressive. For my own home I do think that a combination of modern and farmhouse-chic is a design that would best fit my aesthetic.

FOR YOU, WHAT IS THE TOP LUXURY AMENITY IN YOUR DREAM HOME?

I love to bake, so I would have to say a beautiful kitchen with a large island and state-of-the-art oven would be top of the list. Next would be a comfy bed. Working the long hours I do, comfort while sleeping is of the utmost importance.

 

Bennie Leto

Co-Owner, B&S Floors / bandsfloors.com

Bennie Leto learned the art of high-end, professionally installed flooring from his father. Today, as the co-owner of B&S Floors alongside his dad, Sal Leto Jr., Leto meets any and all flooring needs in Staten island and the greater New York City area. First established in Canarsie, Brooklyn, in 1950 by Leto Jr.’s father, B&S has been on Staten Island for 15 years and has become a fixture in the area. The Letos specialize in hardwood, carpet, and waterproofing vinyl flooring for both commercial and residential locations.

“I began working with my father when I was 19 years old, and I’m going to be 49 in July,” laughed Leto as he recalled his journey into the family business. “I started part-time, and before long I was handling installs before moving into sales.”

Looking forward to the next 30 years, Leto continues to build on the ground work laid by his grandfather more than seven decades ago.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB, AND WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

At B&S, I learned how to install for a while and then, from there, I came into the store to work in sales. I learned how to be a businessman, basically.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ARCHITECTURAL/DESIGN STYLE?

Contemporary.

FOR YOU, WHAT IS THE TOP LUXURY AMENITY IN YOUR DREAM HOME?

An immaculate house with a fireplace, backyard, and great entertainment areas.