Brothers & Sisters, Inc.
Hoboken businesses keep it in the family
by Lana Rose Diaz
Dec 30, 2012 | 8226 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Roger and Erika Muller
Photos by Terriann Saulino Bish and Alyssa Bredin
view slideshow (4 images)

Grace Faugno can still remember shuffling downstairs as a child in her pajamas after bath time to watch her father dip cookie after cookie when they lived above the family business on Adams Street. It was the same kitchen where her family ate dinner each night. And as she and her siblings grew, that bakery was their playground.

“I remember jumping from flour sack to flour sack,” Grace recalls. “It was a good place to grow up. My parents were always very busy; they worked very hard.”

That dedication to work and family has clearly been passed down to the set of siblings now in charge of one of the most famous family-run businesses in America, Carlo’s Bakery.

Grace, her sisters, and their little brother Buddy—more popularly known now as “The Cake Boss”—turned the bakery into an empire, giving people worldwide a taste of what family business is all about in our mile-square.

“It really hasn’t changed us at all,” Buddy says. “We’re still a very tightknit family. At the end of the day family comes first.”

Although, he admits, there are certainly days when they want to kill each other and “everything else.”

“You have to be able to separate it and understand that it’s business,” Buddy says. “No matter what, when push comes to shove we’re always there for each other.”

Maddalena, the second oldest, agrees and says that most arguments are over in five minutes with the next question being, “Are you coming over for dinner?”

“I know people that haven’t spoken to their sister in 20 years,” she says. “I can’t imagine that ever happening.”

Indeed, the key to success in a sibling-run business may actually be to speak as much as possible or, as Grace likes to put it: “don’t hold back, don’t hold grudges.”

“Maybe that’s a little bit of the Hoboken in us,” says Grace. “You’re not gonna have to wonder what’s on our minds.”

But the other key component, she adds, is everyone having his or her own responsibilities within the business, enabling them to accomplish together what they could never do alone.

“I’m complete when I’m here,” Grace says. “It’s like all the siblings are the rest of the pieces of the puzzle; it just works.”

Brothers Keepers

While some businesses in Hoboken are bastions of family-run history, others are just beginning to lay the foundation for their legacies. Dairen Coto worked as a barber for 20 years in other people’s shops before he was finally able to save the money for him and his brother to open their own business.

After much old-fashioned hard work and hustle, in February 2012, Dairen and his brother Leo opened the doors to Trim—their very own barbershop on First Street.

The two had worked together at various barber shops—from Newport Mall to Union City—before they struck out as entrepreneurs. And it was that experience of working together for others that has made them appreciate working together in their own business even more.

“Now we’re able to pay our bills easier, make a little more money,” says Dairen, the eldest. “It’s our creativity and we can do what we want.”

Being able to create their own destiny is precisely the reason the brothers chose their profession in the first place.

“At one point I didn’t like cutting hair,” says Dairen. “I hated it; it was ‘their’ rules. I tried different jobs and I realized this is what I do, I’m a barber, and I’m going to do my thing.”

Leo quickly bought into the idea, and together they became sole creators of their destinies.

“It’s easier that we’re brothers, we get along real well,” says Dairen. “He’s like me. He’s my brother.”

But their shop is more than just two brothers, a couple of chairs, and some clippers. Instead of being someone else’s employees, they now have employees of their own. And that can be where things get a little dicey.

The most difficult thing, Dairen says, is making decisions about the staffing.

“I don’t want to be the one to fire someone or change the rules,” he says. And neither does Leo. But they’ve come up with a solution that seems to be working pretty well: they look to each other to handle it. Hey, isn’t that what brothers are for?

Work Together, Play Together

When it comes to “taking it outside” to resolve sibling rivalry, Roger and Erika Muller have taken the old adage to another level. The two, who work together in their family insurance agency, also play together on various local hockey teams.

“She’s much harder to get along with when she’s not playing hockey,” Roger says with a laugh. “When we have issues at work we take it out on the ice.”

Or more precisely, according to Erika, they take it out on others because they play on the same team.

The doors to Muller Insurance were first opened by their grandfather, John, who at one point had three offices on Washington Street and was honored with a street-naming earlier this year—the area around 10th and Washington Street is now John Muller Way.

In choosing college and work, both Roger and Erika kept the family business in mind—and in their hearts.

After more than 20 years working in the office alongside his sister, Roger is in the process of officially taking over for their dad. And the two are playing on two or three ice hockey teams each year, keeping things nice and cool in the work environment as well.

“I think that because both of us respect each other it’s easy in business to get along,” says Roger. “You’re lucky to have someone that you trust, and you back each other up.”

“We are working together for a common goal,” Erika adds. “It is rewarding being in a family business because you have the security of knowing that you are with your family, and at the end of the day we will both do anything that we can possibly do for each other and for the business.”

Still, it can sometimes be hard to separate personal life from business when family feuds erupt at home. But, Erika says, “Thank goodness for weekends!”

And Roger admits that he struggles with one major problem working with his sister: “People from 6 to 60 walk in and try to pick her up!”

At the End of the Day, it’s Family

For the Losurdo Brothers, working with the family is “just what you do.” The family bought Tony’s Bakery on Second Street in 1975, expanding it into a deli 10 years later. Brothers Nick and Danny, who run the bakery/deli, say the experience of working together has not changed much since they started.

“It’s the same thing,” Danny says. “Everybody does what they have to do. We’re just a little older—and we have kids.”

Indeed, the next generation (six cousins in all) is ready to take over, working diligently beside their dads.

Danny, the younger of the two brothers, began working in the business when he was 14. He now works side by side with his son, Frank, 14.

“I had to come to work before I went to school in the morning,” Danny says with a chuckle. “But that’s ‘old school.’ Now they come in after school or on weekends.”

Still, the kids spend their summers getting up at 5:30 a.m. to get to work, and the family business has instilled a strong work ethic, rare in most teenagers.

“We try to help our fathers,” says Nick’s son, Nicholas, 17. “It’s a good business.”

For young Frank, who sits quietly on the sidelines, much like his uncle, the best part of working for the family is free eats! Fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, eggplant parmesan, the list goes on.

For the most part, Danny handles the front end while Nick cooks all that delicious food.

“We keep him back there ’cause he’s quiet,” Danny jokes as his brother pops his head out from behind the counter to make sure everything’s OK before quickly retreating to the back again.

“It’s fun,” Danny says. “We have ups and downs, but at the end of the day, it’s family.”—07030

Carlo’s Bakery

95 Washington St.

(201) 659-3671

Losurdo Bros.

Tony’s Italian Bread Bakery & Deli

410 Second St.

(201) 659-4766

Muller Insurance

930 Washington St.

(201) 659-2403


303 First St.

(201) 942-9122

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