Back in high school, before Anthony W. Ingrassia had his driver’s license, he spent summer mornings heading to construction sites in his uncle Archie’s car, learning about the family business, Ingrassia Construction Company. Some twenty years later, Anthony W., now the third-generation president of the business, credits much of the company’s continuing success to the wisdom imparted by the family elders.
“One of the big benefits of a family business is that there’s a lot of effort put into really teaching the younger generation,” says Anthony W. “There’s a high level of patience and trust in working with family members. And that’s a nice thing—to be able to trust the people that you work with so completely.”
The Ingrassia family’s trust in one another can be traced to Anthony W.’s grandfather Anthony, an Italian immigrant who founded the company in 1928. Anthony W.’s father, Anthony A., and uncle Archie joined their father in the business, and in 1967, Anthony A. became president.
After graduating from the University of Florida and having a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers (he was drafted but didn’t make the team), Anthony W. joined Ingrassia Construction in 1996. Ten years later, he inherited the role of president. His father and uncle, as well as Anthony W.’s mother, Gloria, are still involved in the business.
Since its inception, the Middlesex-based company has completed hundreds of municipal, county, and state projects, focusing mainly on school buildings. Yet Anthony W. sees a future in moving away from public projects.
“[Public projects are] still our core business,” says Anthony W. “But my initiatives right now are to establish relationships with private commercial clients to build up our repeat and referral business. The livelihood of all the family members are kind of tied to the performance of this company, so there’s definitely a high-level incentive to take a long-term view.”
This long-term view can also be seen in the family’s extensive community outreach, much of which benefits children. In 1976, Anthony A. established the Valerie Fund, a nonprofit devoted to supporting families and children in New Jersey seeking medical care for cancer and blood disorders. The family also established the Christopher N. Ingrassia Fund in memory of Anthony A.’s son Chris, who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In conjunction with Princeton University’s Community House, the fund created a summer camp for underserved minority youth.
As far as future family involvement in the company, it’s too early to tell if Anthony W.’s 5-month-old son, Anthony R., will follow his path.
“I think that it would definitely be a sense of satisfaction to see the company continue to another generation,” says Anthony A. “But I was never pressured to join, and I would want to be the same way with him.”
Owners: Anthony W. Ingrassia, Anthony A. Ingrassia
Business: General construction company providing services to public, industrial, commercial, and institutional clients.
Family Members Employed: 4
Generations Actively Involved: 2
Finalists (Revenue Up To $10 Million)
After emigrating from the Soviet Union in 1980, third-generation jeweler Roman Shor visited his aunt at her chicken farm in Flemington. One walk along the town’s main street was all it took for Shor to realize that he wanted to become part of the community.
Nine years later, Shor opened Roman Jewelers in Flemington, eventually expanding the business to a second location in Bridgewater. Today, the company is run by Shor, 63, his wife, Sophie, and their daughter, Lucy Zimmerman, 38. For the family, Roman Jewelers is not just a business. “It’s a way of life,” says Zimmerman.
“The last two years have not been easy,” she says, refering to the economic downturn. “I do believe that we’ve managed to survive and to thrive for one reason only: We are a family business.”
Roman Jewelers often buys jewelry from manufacturers and artists within the state, and consistently provides charities use of the Flemington building’s atrium for events.
Last year, the business launched Roman Wedding, an event that raised more than $100,000 for local charities. Planned as an annual event, it provides the couple who raises the most money and awareness for a charity a free wedding outfitted by Roman Jewelers and its partners.
“The dedication to family and community is no coincidence,” says Zimmerman. “So much of what we do is help families celebrate life’s moments.”
Stellato Funeral Homes
“Many people jokingly tell us that we can never go out of business because everyone needs our services,” says Louis Stellato Jr., president of Stellato Funeral Homes. At 61, he has weathered many economic cycles and sees the current crisis no differently.
“Giving up is not an option for a family business built on sweat, tears, and family values,” he says.
Stellato Jr. purchased the Waldo J. Ippolito Funeral Home in Lyndhurst in 1975, renaming it the Ippolito-Stellato Funeral Home, and eventually expanding to Fairfield and Fort Lee with the help of his wife, Linda, 61. Today, the couple’s three children are all involved in the business. Louis III, 28, and Dorianne Stellato Kryzsiak, 29, are licensed funeral directors, while Tracey, 33, is the after-care coordinator.
The Stellatos own and operate a livery and monument company to help diversify profits and provide convenience for their customers.
“As the old adage goes, our reputation does precede us,” says Stellato Jr. “We are our own advertisement.”
The Stellatos sponsor community sports teams and serve at local soup kitchens and churches. Stellato Jr. served eight terms as Lyndhurst mayor. Five years ago, the family established a grief group for teenagers coping with loss at Lyndhurst High School.
“‘People helping people’ is the way we describe ourselves,” says Stellato Jr.
Semi-Finalists (Revenue Up To $10 Million)
AJ O’Connor & Associates
In 1983, Andrew J. O’Connor Sr. and Betty O’Connor founded a company devoted to various aspects of career development, including executive training and outplacement. The business, now located in Parsippany, has been the workplace for three generations of O’Connors; it is currently owned by Andrew J. O’Connor III, son of the founder. He leads the staff of seven employees (including one other family member) and more than twenty consultants and coaches.
Lont & Co.
Ken Lont owns the commercial printing company started by his grandfather, Cornelius Lont, in 1902. Ken’s wife, Judy, and son, Josh, are two of the current 23 employees. One of the first printers to use direct imaging and computer-to-plate technology, the operation has managed to stay afloat amidst international competition and emerging forms of communication via the Internet. Lont’s community involvement includes work with Habitat for Humanity and local PBA and EMS squads.
Margit Rahill is president and CEO of this custom bookbinding and restoration company, with roots dating to 1932 in Sopron, Hungary. The company survived the Hitler and Stalin regimes and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, then reemerged in its current location in Wharton in 1975. Today’s operation has five employees, including Rahill and her son, Michael.
Singer Nelson Charlmers
The Teaneck-based insurance broker is run by Al Singer, founder, and his sons, David and Jonathan. The state’s leading broker for engineering firms, the company has 40 employees and a client list that includes members of the American Council of Engineering Companies of New Jersey. A high priority is placed on volunteer efforts with community service organizations such as the Center for Food Action.
Launched in 1998 by father-and-son James J. and James D. Messina, the company manufactures a complete line of organic animal repellents. The Warren County firm services more than 1,200 residential customers throughout northern New Jersey.