We profile 12 North Shore notables across the region.
We speak to local professionals about their challenges, their accomplishments, and their inspiration. These Movers & Shakers are shaping the future of the North Shore in many different ways.
They're also set to be honored at the Movers & Shakers Awards 2023 Event. Join us on Wednesday, October 11th for this special event as we celebrate their impact in shaping our community.
They are entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, farmers, and commercial developers—a hotelier and a health and beauty expert. And while we applaud their successes so far, we may be even more excited about what is to come.
Dawn Tardif started working when she was 15. She took a job at Gingiss Formalwear; moved on to management at the then-popular clothing chain The Limited; and then worked at the locally iconic Yolanda’s bridal shop.
As she worked her way up the ladder in the world of fashion retail, however, Tardif knew what she really wanted was to start her own business. And she wanted to focus less on the outer trappings of beauty and, instead, delve a little deeper. The result was BodiScience Wellness Center & Spa, opened in 1990 and still thriving today.
“I have never been the person who is so concerned with the exterior,” Tardif says. “If I am feeling happy, healthy, and balanced and at peace, I am then going to radiate that. To me, that’s beauty.”
BodiScience offers treatments based on the philosophy that skincare is about more than superficial beauty. The skin is a vital organ that reflects the state of internal systems and energies. Therefore, skincare must address emotional and mental well-being as well. The principles of Ayurvedic medicine—a traditional Indian form of natural medicine that centers on balancing mind, body, spirit, and the environment—have always been central to Tardif’s work. She has studied extensively in both Ayurvedic practices and conventional medicine.
“All of our modalities are based on the mind-body connection and neuroscience,” she says.
When the business first started, this kind of holistic approach was not widely appreciated, Tardif says. Though her true focus was on overall wellness, and she has always offered Ayurvedic treatments, she made the practical decisions to put the word spa in her business name and offered some of the expected services, like manicures.
“We put the name ‘spa’ in there so I could get into people’s minds and hearts,” she says.
Today, BodiScience’s pioneering approach to wellness and skincare has more traction, allowing the business to really come into its own. And she intends to help spread the philosophy even further: She will soon be launching a program to train others in the field in BodiScience theories and techniques.
“Now that it’s more talked about, now that it’s more well received, we are able to step up as the leader in the industry,” she says. “We have now stepped into our authentic selves.”
When you think of power players at the TD Garden in Boston, you might think of Bruins center Patrice Bergeron or Jason Tatum tearing up the parquet for the Celtics. Behind the scenes, Amy Latimer, president of TD Garden and chief development officer of its parent company, Delaware North, is calling the shots. Starting as part of the inaugural executive team at the TD Garden in 1995, she rose through the ranks and was named president of the arena in 2012. Latimer led a $70 million renovation in 2015 and a multilevel, $100-plus million, 50,000-square-foot expansion of the arena, which opened in 2019. Given her success, it was no surprise Delaware North recently named Latimer its chief operating officer, responsible for the company’s business operations around the world.
Latimer and her husband, who spent more than 20 years in Topsfield raising their three sons, recently moved to Plum Island. It is from here that she will commute to the company’s more than 200 high-profile sports and entertainment venues, national and state parks, and destination resorts and restaurants across the globe.
“We moved to Topsfield at the end of September of 1997,” recalls Latimer. “It was a Saturday morning, and suddenly I heard fire trucks and lots of noise. My husband was traveling, so I ran outside in my PJs thinking there was an emergency. I saw people lining the streets and finally realized it was the Topsfield Fair parade. I called my husband and told him I love it here.”
When asked what she loves about the North Shore, Latimer quickly answers, “Everything! It was important for my husband and me to raise our family in a house with a yard and be part of a community. Living in Topsfield we were close to everything—Boston, beaches, Route 1. Forget the village, it takes a town to raise a child. I could not have had a better experience.”
“While my boys were growing up and doing sports, we practically lived at Alex’s and Topsfield House of Pizza,” adds Latimer. “I love the Topsfield Bake Shop and always enjoy going to Tendercrop Farm. Plus, there is no better place to get a roast beef sandwich than on the North Shore, and we have tried them all!”
As for being a leader in business, Latimer hopes her team would say that they know where the organization is going. “People want clear direction, and I do my best to provide it while also giving them the tools to succeed. Being a good listener and being empathetic is important. I think leadership has changed. Today, you have to be flexible and more thoughtful about working with employees,” says Latimer.
As for her best business advice, Latimer says to raise your hand for the job even if you don’t have 100 percent of the requested qualifications. “As long as you have 70 percent of them and the desire to do the job, you will be fine. I’m proof this is true as it has been my path.”
When North Shore resident Billy Costa first graduated from Emerson College, he was working as a DJ in a few Boston clubs. He caught the attention of some folks from radio station Kiss 108 FM. They asked him in for an interview. He agreed but wasn’t content to just take a standard job. Instead, he proposed launching a news program focused on entertainment, lifestyle, and celebrities.
Station management was skeptical of the then-novel format, so Costa made an offer: He’d host the show for free for six months, but if they didn’t hire him at the end, he’d take his services to their competitor.
“Long story short, they hired me,” Costa says.
For the 40 years since that successful gambit, Costa—and his distinctive voice—have been all over New England’s radio and television airwaves, serving up entertainment news, popular music countdowns, insider info on restaurants and food, and more.
A broadcasting career, however, was not Costa’s original plan. After high school, he played hockey, first in a postgraduate prep school program for two years and then at Merrimack College. Two years later he transferred to Emerson, thinking he might use his degree to become a high school public speaking teacher.
Without a hockey scholarship to pay his way, Costa found himself working four or five jobs at a time—including part-time club DJ gigs—to cover his tuition while attending school full time. And he’s never really slowed down.
He’s still on air leading Kiss 108’s morning program and hosts a syndicated top 30 countdown show for the station’s parent company. He hosts a food and entertainment show on NESN, Dining Playbook; a food-focused radio show, Food for Thought, on news radio station WBZ; and public television’s High School Quiz Show. There’s still more to come. He and NESN cohost Jenny Johnson are putting together a new show and have a coffee-table cookbook coming out.
Despite his packed schedule, however, Costa says he never feels like it’s all too much work.
“It doesn’t feel like it when you love it,” he says. “You never feel like you’re going to work.”
Thomas Holland is a successful restaurateur whose eateries, A&B Burgers in Beverly and A&B Kitchen and Bar in Boston, have reimaged the typical burger joint by combining amazing burgers with great service.
“We just tried to reinvent what a burger restaurant was, because at the time it was all quick serve,” he says of first opening a decade ago. “We were one of the originals that started this full-service burger and bar restaurant. And it was really, really well received.”
It’s easy to see why. A&B Burgers—which is named after Holland’s sons, Alex and Ben—works with local and sustainable farms and partners for a menu filled with delicious, award-winning burgers, small plates, entrées, and other creative, lovingly crafted items. The atmosphere is friendly and welcoming, made even better by the great service that people expect from the region’s top restaurants. The restaurant group opened a second location in Boston in 2019.
With a thriving business and happy family, Holland seems to be enjoying an uninterrupted string of success. But 23 years ago, things were very different. Holland was living on the street and battling addiction, panhandling for money just so he could eat.
“You would’ve walked by me on the street and crossed the street because of the way I looked or acted,” he says. “Now, I’m able to put almost 100 people to work, and contribute a significant amount of money into the community, and be able to really be a part of a community that has welcomed me.”
Holland, in recovery for 23 years, hasn’t forgotten about all the people who helped him along the way, which is why he’s dedicated to paying it forward. His restaurants support the community wherever they can, from Beverly High School to local Little League teams. They also work with the homeless shelters Riverhouse in Beverly and Lifebridge in Salem to donate food. They even worked with those shelters for a month to deliver roughly 120 meals a day to local families’ homes during the early days of the Covid shutdown.
For Holland, “that’s what community is,” and now he feels like he’s come full circle.
“Our guests support us, our local area supports us,” he says. “And when somebody reaches out and says they’re in need, we need to be there to support them as well.”
Growing up in Connecticut, Michael Aldi fully expected to follow in his father’s professional footsteps, working in real estate and development. And for a while, that’s just what he did, joining the family business after he graduated from college.
Aldi, his father, and another partner then had a chance to invest in a restaurant in Boston. As soon as he got a taste of the business, Aldi was hooked.
“Once I got my feet wet in the restaurant industry, I realized I really enjoyed it,” he says. “I enjoy people, I like entertaining. It’s very fast-paced, there’s a lot of moving parts. It fits my personality.”
Since that initial realization, Aldi has become perhaps the most notable restaurateur in Revere. Using his real estate savvy, he connected with developer Redgate, which was building high-apartment complexes in Revere, and struck a deal to open restaurants in its three developments in the city.
The result is that, today, Aldi is the owner of three of the city’s newest and most popular eateries. The first, Dryft, opened in late 2019, offering what Aldi calls “Miami vibes” and an eclectic menu that is big on local seafood and house-made pasta. Fine Line, an elevated take on a pizza-and-beer joint, opened in 2020, and upscale Cut 21 joined the group in 2021, featuring steak and seafood.
And Aldi is not even close to finished with building his portfolio. He is in talks for a deal at the redeveloped Suffolk Downs project and is developing a concept for a café-bar at another new apartment complex. He is also looking beyond Revere to possibilities in Newton or Weston and the Boston Seaport.
The key to his success, he suspects, is his focus on the personality of each of his restaurants. Food is important, of course: Aldi is quick to praise his menu items, particularly the chicken under a brick at Dryft. However, the experience matters even more, he says. And part of cultivating a great experience is keeping employees happy. Even as many restaurants struggle with staffing, Aldi has little trouble retaining employees, he says, because he listens to their needs and pays attention to their strengths.
“We want them to succeed,” he says. “If they do better, I do better.”
Before she became a TV chef, lifestyle expert, and brand ambassador, Anna Rossi tried her hand at pharmaceutical sales. She wasn’t very good at it.
“I was the worst pharmaceutical rep because all I wanted to do was chitchat about pork chops with the doctors,” laughs Rossi.
As Rossi tried to find her professional way after graduating from the University of Vermont in 2005, thoughts of food just kept tugging at her. She had fond memories of pickling foraged rose hips with her grandmother in Sweden, learning French cooking skills from a landlord in college, and sharing meals with fellow travelers on a hike in Spain. But when she met her now-husband, A.J., who has an expansive appreciation for food and cooking, something just clicked, and she started to think about the career possibilities.
She started a food blog and then, in 2012, got her first big break when she and A.J. were both cast on the third season of cooking competition show MasterChef. She earned rave reviews for creations like her chocolate lava cake, and made it from the original pool of 100 contestants into the top 13.
From there she expanded her food blog, contributed recipes and food writing to cookbooks and magazines, and worked as a personal chef. Then, in 2016, the local NBC affiliate decided it wanted to localize its lifestyle content and brought Rossi on board to talk food. When Covid shutdowns sparked wider interest in home cooking, she took to Facebook Live with a series of videos called “The Chef’s Pantry.” The videos were immediately a hit and have now evolved into a more traditional TV segment.
Rossi’s commitment to cooking is as much about feelings as it is flavors, she says. She loves showing people small tricks to transform simple, affordable ingredients into special meals, like the way searing skin-on chicken thigh the right way yields “potato-chip crisp” skin. It’s a “humble dish that’s been elevated,” she says. She appreciates the way a meal can connect people, the way buying local food can nurture the community, and the way new flavors can expand possibilities.
It’s not a path Rossi expected 15 years ago, but it’s one she is very happy to walk today.
“This is really a surprise,” Rossi says, “and it’s been a journey that I’m really grateful for.”
Gary Litchfield’s roots in Burlington run deep, and throughout his career, he’s helped to shape the town and what it’s become.
“It’s very satisfying. I drive down just about any street and there are homes that I built or properties that I helped to assist in the planning of,” he says.
That’s because of Litchfield’s role both professionally and with the town itself. In addition to spending several years on the planning board in the 1980s, Litchfield has been in the real estate business for decades.
“I probably built—between houses and condos in Burlington—a couple hundred properties,” he says. “And being in the brokerage business I also facilitated another three or four hundred transactions.”
He estimates that he’s developed between 300 and 400 acres worth about $100,000,000 over a 40-year career as a real estate developer designing, permitting, and building out new homes and condominiums in more than 18 communities and more than 20 subdivisions and projects.
Litchfield’s businesses, Litchfield Company, Inc, a real estate development company, and Mass Real Estate Solutions, a real estate brokerage company, both operate out of his office in Burlington. He also owns the Emerald Rose, an Irish restaurant in nearby Billerica.
But his roots stretch even deeper than that. Not only has he lived in Burlington his whole life, but his mother was born at home there “when there was less than 600 people back in the early 20s” and his father was the town’s first full-time police officer right after WWII.
That’s why it’s been important to Litchfield to be involved in the community, both in his own town and beyond, from hosting charity events at his restaurant and making donations to local organizations, to serving as the state’s boxing commissioner for 12 years and instituting important elements like a medical advisory board for the first time. He’s also been a professional boxing judge.
In addition, he recently donated a 1.3-acre portion of land to the town of Burlington after discovering that part of a parcel he was building a house on actually included a small part of a trail that connected two town-owned pieces of land. Instead of cutting off the trail, he donated the portion of the trail that passed over private property, as well as a bit more land that included some wetlands.
“It worked out well and kept that trail system connected and that town land connected. The piece that we were able to donate connects those two pieces, and it never did before,” he says. “Now, it’s completely, wholly owned by the town, and there will be no worries going forward about ever having it interrupted.”
Websites like Airbnb and Vrbo have radically changed the tourism market, allowing travelers to bypass corporate middlemen and book stays directly online with property owners, from single rooms to entire houses. But, often, the service at those properties leaves something to be desired when compared to a traditional hotel.
“You can have really cool technology,” says Eric Sullivan, founder and managing partner of the real estate investing firm Sullivan Capital. “But if the guest can’t get a towel when they need it or something’s not working, it kind of doesn’t matter.”
That’s why Sullivan Capital is shaking up the hospitality market even more with a new model of limited-service boutique hotels that combine the best of both worlds. The result is a “digital hotel” that’s a hybrid between traditional, fully staffed hotels and Airbnb properties, and uses a technology platform to provide exceptional guest services.
Its first property is The Coach House, an 1879 Victorian mansion in Salem that’s been operating as an inn for many years. After undergoing an extensive renovation and getting a modern makeover—goodbye, dated floral wallpaper and lace curtains; hello, sleek, black-and-white design—The Coach House reopened in August 2022 as an 11-room boutique hotel.
Guests are able to book online and check in digitally, using a code to access the property and their room as soon as they arrive (no waiting in line to check in), but also have the added services of a personal concierge who’s reachable by text for everything from requesting additional towels to getting help operating the TV. Sullivan says their response time is about one to two minutes. Like a traditional boutique hotel, the luxe rooms offer Wi-Fi, smart TVs, bathrobes, C. O. Bigelow toiletries, and other amenities.
A year-plus into its operation, Sullivan says guests are happy. “Our reviews have been pretty much five stars across the board,” Sullivan says. “I think that all just really ties back to the guest experience, which, again, is paramount.”
Sullivan is just starting, too. He’s working on restoring and opening additional properties throughout New England, including one in Gloucester, all with an eye toward that bespoke, boutique experience.
“We’re not trying to buy these large, mammoth, traditional hotels like a Holiday Inn,” he says. “But take ;historic properties and bring them back to life with a new purpose.”
For decades, Smolak Farms in North Andover has been a staple of the North Shore community, offering beloved pick-your-own experiences, fun at the farm stand, seasonal festivals and events, educational programs, and its lovely Whim Dinners, a pop-up, farm-to-table summer dining series featuring multicourse menus created by local chefs and served right on the farm.
At the farm’s helm is its owner and operator, H. Michael Smolak, who still lives on the farm that his family has called home for almost a century. But in May 2022, Smolak nearly watched all of that history, passion, and memory go up in flames when an overnight fire broke out on the farm.
“It happened at two o’clock in the morning,” Smolak remembers. “I looked out the window, and you could see the flames coming up.”
His farmhouse home is right across the street, so he grabbed a kitchen fire extinguisher and ran toward the flames, but it was too dangerous to put out by himself. In the end, the fire destroyed three buildings.
“You feel like the rug’s been pulled out from underneath you, and then you think, well, how are we going to survive this?” Smolak says. “You’ve got to hope that you can kind of piece it together and make things work, and so far we have.”
After the fire they rebuilt the function building, which Smolak says now “looks better than it’s ever looked.” They also planted three acres of strawberries, which he predicts “will be wonderful next year;” started a flower cutting garden; and will be planting a new peach orchard next spring.
And although 2022 was devastating, it was also a year of recognition. Smolak received the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau’s 2022 New Member Award for his contribution to regional tourism. He also received the North Andover Historical Society’s 2022 Lifetime Preservation Award. Smolak preserved 107 acres of the farm in cooperation with the State of Massachusetts Agricultural Preservation Restriction Program, ensuring that it will remain open land in perpetuity. He calls that act of preservation his “biggest legacy for my tenure on the property.”
It’s been a tough few years marked by fire, bad crops, a drought, and a pandemic. But Smolak remains optimistic and dedicated to making Smolak Farms better than ever.
“Sometimes, I feel like the phoenix rising from the ashes,” he says.
Jenny Holaday loves casino entertainment.
“I could go to a casino with a bunch of girlfriends and play slots all night long and just have a blast,” she says. Of course, as president of Encore Boston Harbor, Holaday isn’t actually allowed to play where everyone else in the Greater Boston area plays. But that doesn’t mean you won’t catch a fast-moving glimpse of her while you’re there.
“I’m usually on my way somewhere, so you’ll see me walking very purposefully,” she says. “I’m all over the building. All over the place, anytime, any day, anywhere.”
Holaday, who lives on the North Shore, joined Encore as executive vice president of operations a few months after its grand opening in 2019, and rose to the top spot in less than two years, becoming president in August 2021. With that promotion, Holaday became the first woman to run a casino in Massachusetts.
She also took on the president role at a particularly challenging time, just as the world was adjusting to the pandemic’s “new normal.” She says going through something like that has tested and retested her ability to pivot and change.
“You figure out really quickly how to adjust,” she says. “I think in many ways, it helped this team because we’ve just never had it easy. It’s always been something that we’re reacting and adjusting to.”
But Holaday hasn’t only been reacting to the turbulence of the pandemic. She’s also led Encore to achieving record-high gaming revenues; partnering with all five of the region’s major sports teams; and spearheading philanthropy work. For instance, Encore volunteers are currently working with an organization called The Pack Shack toward the goal of packing and donating 1 million meals this year to local community food banks.
In addition, Encore Boston Harbor has received a five-star resort designation with Forbes Travel Guide for two years running. That designation is tough to get, especially for a large casino resort.
“Most five-star resorts are small, boutique operations. So to do that with 3,300 employees and 671 hotel rooms and 11 bars and restaurants, let alone a casino the size of ours, is a very unique achievement,” Holaday says. “That is by far the most, I think, important and proudest achievement, and a lot of the team feel the same way.”
Six years into her accounting career, Amy Pocsik took a career break to concentrate on the work of parenting her newborn son. When it was time to return to her professional life, she decided she was ready for a change.
“I really set out on this journey to find my purpose, to find out what I was meant to do,” she says.
She tried a few different paths, including a stint as a mortgage broker. She knew she needed to actively network to succeed in her new field but was disappointed to find few options focused on women. So, along with Melissa Gilbo, whom she met during her earliest networking forays, Pocsik in 2018 founded the Women’s Business League, a now-national organization that connects professional women, providing shared resources, business advice, and assistance in expanding their businesses. Today, the group has 45 chapters across 11 states.
As the organization grew, Pocsik realized two things: First, she really didn’t like being a mortgage broker. And second, she wanted to use her professional knowledge to help all the women she was meeting who needed a little boost in the business world. In 2021, she launched Bold Moves, a company that offers career advisory services to women entrepreneurs and executives.
“I met so many women who were so talented, but they didn’t have business knowledge,” she says.
The backbone of both these enterprises is Pocsik’s dedication to helping women be confident and assertive as they express their authentic selves in their work. It can be a hard balance to strike, but Pocsik is up for the challenge. Her passion for the work she now does is evident within the first few minutes of a conversation, as she fizzes with genuine enthusiasm for the power and promise of the women she works with.
“I work with women who are trailblazing, building businesses that are amazing opportunities for themselves and transforming the industries that they’re in,” she says. “These are amazing women. They inspire me.”
Now, two years into running Bold Moves, Pocsik is happy to say that she might just have found the answer to the career questions she was asking herself a decade ago.
“I feel like I finally hit my stride,” Pocsik says. “In a lot of ways, I am just getting started.”
Bill Baert and Warren Kelly
In 1973, Bill Baert and Warren Kelly started Baert Marine in a two-bay garage on Route 1 in Danvers. The building burned to the ground in 1974. The pair did not give up on their fledgling business, however. They spent the next 49 years building a marine supply and services business that was among the largest and most respected in New England.
“It had to do with attitude: We knew we could do it, and we love what we do,” Baert says, speaking from aboard his own boat. “Anything you have a passion for sticks.”
Just last month, the pair sold the business to Maine’s Port Harbor Marine, a buyer carefully chosen to keep their legacy alive.
“It’s very emotional selling a business you spent your whole life on,” Kelly says. “But we feel we’ve left it in good hands.”
Baert Marine began when Baert, then a recent college graduate with a deep love of sailing and the ocean, was offered the opportunity to take over the marine business he had been working for throughout his studies. He brought on Kelly, then a mechanic at the company, as his partner.
The partnership worked, they both say, because their professional personalities complement each other’s nicely. Baert is the grounded one, focusing on the details of day-to-day operations, while Kelly is the long-term thinker and the marketer, always pushing new ideas for promotion and expansion.
“We worked very well together,” Baert says. “If we were 20 years younger, we could’ve kept going for another 20 years.”
Together, they nurtured a company culture in which employees took ownership of their work. Employees trusted Baert and Kelly and the bosses, in return, trusted them. The business ran so smoothly, Baert says, that he was able to take monthlong vacations without ever feeling the need to check in.
The formula worked for 50 years, seeing the business through gas crises, economic crashes, and a global pandemic. Now in their 70s, the partners decided it was time to find new owners who would continue the values and practices that kept Baert Marine going strong for half a century.
“We had to make sure our employees were taken care of, and they had a future,” Kelly says.
Looking ahead, Kelly expects to do some consulting work and to become more active in volunteer industry association work. And Baert? “I want more time with my family,” he says. “I want more time on my boat.”
Celebrate with the Northshore Movers & Shakers
Join us on Wednesday, October 11 at the North Shore Music theatre in Beverly to celebrate those who have helped shape our community and make it a better place to work and play. Starting at 5:30 p.m. enjoy cocktails, small bites, and mingling, followed by an awards presentation that will give you the chance to hear from the dynamic personalities that make up this year's Movers & Shakers list. Then continue networking to meet more of the people who make the North Shore such a vibrant place to be.
Tickets are available online at Eventbrite, and sponsorship opportunities are also available.