The Hopewell Square Plaza may appear like any other shopping plaza in the U.S., but take a closer look and you’ll find a lot more. For one thing, there’s what looks to be a 1929 Ford Roadster parked out front. For another, six of the seven small businesses are female-owned and operated, and four share entrepreneurial DNA.
And like a scene from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the related women — and their men and children — are in and out of each other’s businesses and personal lives daily.
“Our business lives are our family lives,” says Theresa Gigliotti VanZandt.
She, husband Brent and daughter Katie, are co-owners of Katie Rose Bakery, which opened in May 2019.
Working in a family business is nothing new to Theresa. More than five decades ago, her parents, Pasquale and Kathleen Gigliotti, kicked the entrepreneurial gene into full gear when they founded not only a family, but Paleen Construction in Yorktown. Theresa, a professional engineer like her husband, works full-time at Paleen with three of her four siblings.
(From left) Tara Gigliotti of Step by Step Childcare Center, Stephanie Gigliotti of D’Arcangelo & Co. LLP, Theresa Gigliotti VanZandt of Katie Rose Bakery, and Lisa Gigliotti of Lisa M. Gigliotti Attorney at Law and Patsy’s Roadhouse. Stephanie is a co-owner of the Plaza.
Theresa recalls she “loved working with my mom in the family business. Now I do the same with my daughter.” She and Brent serve as extra hands at the bakery on weekends.
Support is vital during the start-up phase, when hours are long, the learning curve steep and tons of energy are required for success.
“I couldn’t do this without my parents and extended family,” says Katie, a Culinary Institute of America graduate. She dreamed of opening a bakery since high school and “experimented with recipes, leaving a mess in my parent’s kitchen.”
Some days Katie’s so busy she’d skip eating if not for “my Pop Pop or uncles stopping by with food from the restaurant.”
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“The restaurant,” Patsy’s Roadhouse — featuring desserts by Katie — is owned by Lisa and Patrick Gigliotti. Named for the family patriarch, it’s his 1929 Ford Roadster replica that’s parked at the front door, no doubt beckoning the car-curious as well as hungry diners.
Lisa, a transactional real estate attorney by day who built her practice when her four children were little, runs the Dutchess, Westchester, and Connecticut divisions of her law office, Lisa M. Gigliotti, Esq. alongside attorney-daughter Rebecca Gigliotti. This office is also at the plaza, of course. Her father-in-law was instrumental in her wanting to open a restaurant.
“We talked about it for years. He’s so knowledgeable, a true business mentor,” says Lisa, adding that the Gigliottis owned two restaurants in the past.
Tara Gigliotti opened the Hopewell Square Plaza location of Step by Step Childcare Center in 2014.
But it was a family buy-in that launched Patsy’s.
“I asked my kids — busy with day jobs and college — if they would commit to helping. I couldn’t do this without them, or my husband who keeps the mechanicals running.”
So when do the Gigliottis breathe?
“We don’t much,” says Lisa.
With downtime infrequent, she attributes the extended family’s successes “to the fact that while we run so much, we are running it together, one for all and all for one.”
Echoing her sister-in-law, Tara Gigliotti says, “Not only do we work together, pitching in when needed, but we live minutes from each other” on a tract of land purchased decades ago in Wappingers.
This togetherness and support — plus taking a risk — gave rise to Tara’s career as owner/director of Step by Step Childcare Center, the plaza location of which opened in 2014.
Unable to secure a teaching position due to market conditions when her teen sons were in elementary school, Tara applied at a daycare set to open.
Katie VanZandt of Katie Rose Bakery, which she owns with her parents, Brent and Theresa. Patsy’s Roadhouse (owned by her aunt and uncle) serves her desserts.
“The owner’s partner backed out. I had just met this woman, but asked, ‘Do you want a new partner?’ and that’s how it began,” says Tara. Shortly after, she bought the woman out, moved the center to its current location and started growing her business — from four children in 2010 to 104 in 2018.
As for Katie’s advice for bringing to life a business you love? “If it’s your dream, keep working hard,” she says. “Right now I’m eating, breathing, and sleeping my bakery,” says Katie.