It’s a Family Affair

We all know the age-old saying that blood is thicker than water. Perhaps that’s why some of our favorite small businesses just happen to be run by families. And while there are unique struggles that come from owning a family business, the reward of knowing you can trust those around you, as you strive for a shared goal, is priceless. Below, check out a few of our favorite family-owned businesses in the 716.

Welcome 716

Ok, so nothing wrong with a little shameless self-promotion, right? Welcome Magazine launched in 1984 by Julie Kianof Fink and John Calabrese. Last year, brothers Lauren and Justin DeLuca took over Welcome and transformed it into Welcome 716. They now run Welcome 716 with a little help from Justin’s wife, Meredith. The DeLuca family is proud to help maintain the tradition that has made Welcome what it is and look forward to modernizing this legacy every step of the way. We think of Buffalo Niagara as a larger family and we are glad to be a part of it.

Hey, that’s us!

A look at Lombardo’s before it was Ristorante Lombardo.

Ristorante Lombardo

In 1975, at the age of 21, Thomas J. Lombardo Jr. opened the doors of what was then known simply as Lombardo’s with his father Thomas J. Lombardo Sr. Tom Jr. and his father quickly established the restaurant as a local watering hole and a place for great Italian-American fare. Starting in the 90’s, Tom and his wife Donna began what would become a lifetime of regular trips to Italy, finding inspiration that has spurred the evolution of Ristorante Lombardo into the restaurant you see today. In 2012, the saga continued when Thomas J. Lombardo’s son, Tommy, decided to return to his hometown so that he could partner with his father in the family business. The legacy continues as the Lombardo family plans to open a new restaurant across the street called The Little Club this month.

Half & Half Boutique

If you’ve ever done a day of shopping on Elmwood Ave surely you’ve made a stop at Half & Half Boutique. This chic boutique in the heart of Elmwood has an array of stylish clothes and home goods that you really can’t find anywhere else. Half & Half is ran by mother-daughter duo Jennifer and Kilby Bronstein. When I visited, Jennifer was delighted to show me their beautiful decor pillows and was truly passionate about all of the wonderful products in their store. I love how Kilby keeps Half & Half’s Instagram fresh and changing; you can always tell what’s in the store by looking at their feed and stories. (And PS some of the dresses I’ve seen on there lately would be perfect for a holiday party!) While some daughters and mothers struggle to get along, it’s nice to see this mother-daughter duo thriving!

Tenacious mother-daughter duo Jennifer and Kilby Bronstein.

Not only are the ingredients fresh at 755 but the new facade is looking fresh, too!

755 Restaurant & Lounge

The 755 Restaurant & Lounge is a hidden gem in the heart of Niagara Falls. The Merhi family owns and runs the restaurant and have really done a fabulous job of giving the space a makeover. The menu consists of Lebanese family recipes and you can taste the tradition in each bite. Of course they have American fare, too. Basically, they cook food that they themselves would want to enjoy.

Fortuna’s Restaurant 

A fixture of Niagara Falls since 1945, Fortuna’s Restaurant and Banquets has served up savory tastes of southern Italy for more than 70 years using only the freshest ingredients. Their authentic Italian regional recipes fill the menu and their refined, but friendly ambiance will make you feel instantly at home.The third generation of the Fortuna family now runs the restaurant, and they continue the tradition of using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible in making their delicious food. When a restaurant has been around for over seven decades, you know they’re doing something right!

Fortuna’s Restaurant & Banquets can be found in the heart of Little Italy in Niagara Falls.

Joe DiCamillo and his bread wagon.

DiCamillo Bakery

In 1920, with the help of their eleven children, Tomaso and Addolorata DiCamillo opened the first DiCamillo Bakery in Niagara Falls, New York.  From basement ovens, the DiCamillo family began baking bread and delivering it to their neighbors in horse-drawn wagons. Today second, third, and fourth generation members of the DiCamillo family continue this uninterrupted tradition of making wholesome hearth-baked bread, classic Italian cookies and confections.  Although their menu of breads and biscotti has greatly expanded, their standards, traditions, and the pride in the products that they make remain the same. To see generations of the DiCamillo family carrying out the legacy of those who came before them is truly special.

Chef’s Restaurant

Chef’s Restaurant in Buffalo opened at its current site on the corner of Seneca and Chicago Streets back in 1923. This was Lou Billittier’s childhood neighborhood. In 1941 Lou was hired to wash dishes by then owners Gino Silverstrini and Lee Federconi. Lou worked his way up to busboy, then waiter, eventually earning the title of restaurant manager. By 1950, Lou was half-owner of Chef’s, and in 1954 he became sole owner, with financial assistance from his dad, Anthony Billittier. For more than 50 years Chef’s has been satisfying the appetites and delighting the palates of countless lunch and dinner patrons. The guiding light of Chef’s, the late Lou Billittier, along with his daughter Mary Beth and son Louis John, always believed in running the business by being there every day to carefully supervise the food preparation and service. The basic history of Chef’s Restaurant comes down to a happy story of a local boy who made good in his hometown.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Vintage pic of Chef’s Restaurant.

So while no family or small business is perfect, there’s just something magical that happens when you combine the two. The trust and shared dedication that occurs when a business is run by a family is unlike any other. We’re proud to live in an area with so many thriving family businesses and we are certainly proud to carry on Welcome’s tradition as a family!