Northshore magazine honors the North Shore's top business leaders.
What does it mean to be a mover and shaker? Well, it depends on who you ask. Some of our movers and shakers are dedicated to multigenerational family businesses. Others devote their time to raising awareness about cancer or making their local community hospital a place where everyone can access the best healthcare. Still others made education or art their lifelong passions. But they all have a few things in common: dynamism, a relentless drive to do better for themselves and the people around them, and a love for the North Shore and its people.
CEO of Dot Connector Consulting
Dr. Anna Petropoulos
Double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of The Center for Classic Beauty and The New England Facial Cosmetic Surgery Center
President of the Academy at Penguin Hall
Founder of Uncommon Threads
Entrepreneur and owner of the Beauport Hotel
President at Giblees, Inc.
Todd Rogers Berberian
Owner Todd Rogers Eyewear
Owner North Shore Music Theatre
Executive director of the Lynn Museum and Historical Society
Nicholas Yebba, Sr., and
Nicholas Yebba, Jr.
Nick Sr. president and owner of Teresa’s Hospitality Group | Nick Jr. partner and executive chef
Jeffrey Arcari and Julie Arcari Cook
Co-owners and co-CEOs of Landry & Arcari Rugs and Carpeting
Grace Gonzalez Connolly
Chairperson of the board at Anna Jaques Hospital
Mikki Wilson calls herself “the chief energy officer” for her company, Dot Connector Consulting, and it’s an apt title. Her energy for helping women entrepreneurs “connect the dots” between their passion and profits, and make their businesses as successful as possible, is absolutely limitless.
“We partner with purpose-driven women who provide services to connect the dots between their marketing strategy and their business to identify pathways to profitability,” she says. “I’m a social-impact entrepreneur, and I discovered that the majority of women entrepreneurs hit this five-figure revenue glass ceiling . . . so I decided to tackle this problem because usually marketing is the key to unlock this. And it’s particularly important to me because I personally believe by investing in women and helping them achieve profitability, that money then gets reinvested into their homes, their families, the community, and the economy at large.”
What motivates you?
I think people motivate me. I’m a people person. I just want to support and encourage people to be their best, whatever that looks like for them. I have this energy that I don’t know where it comes from, and I think that energy is purely to motivate people so that is reciprocated in return. Because if I can help someone, if I can connect the dots for someone, that is my ultimate motivation to keep doing what I do.
What do you love about the North Shore?
Oceans! I’m a stand-up paddleboarder, so I love the access that we have on the North Shore throughout the season, but particularly from late spring until late fall, you can find me, probably, on any body of water between the actual ocean to the Ipswich River, to the Merrimack and everything in between. Riverhead beach in Marblehead, the home of SUP East Coast Style . . . that is my summer office. So when they say you can’t work at the beach? You actually can.
What does community mean to you?
I grew up with that philosophy that it takes a village to raise a child, so community means to me that we’re all responsible for what happens in our backyard. So community is when everybody is in it together to bring people together and to really uplift each other within the community. That’s all our responsibility.
What makes you proud?
I’m really proud that I started this business. I think that’s what I always go back to. It was never in my plan; that thought was never even introduced to me in the first half of my life that I couldn’t be a successful business owner or just own a business. So this business is probably the thing that I’m most proud of in my life to date.
Dr. Anna Petropoulos
During her youth, while visiting Greece with her family, Anna Petropoulos, MD, FRCS, was captivated by the beautiful statues and the lovely proportions of their faces and bodies at the museums she visited with her mother. Now, a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of The Center for Classic Beauty and The New England Facial Cosmetic Surgery Center, Dr. Petropoulos carries with her those principles of harmony and natural, classic beauty in her industry-leading work with patients.
“Even though I’m a facial plastic surgeon, my philosophy is to avoid surgery whenever possible, and focus on noninvasive treatments. I feel we are really blessed that in this age of technology, we have so many options,” she says. “I can create very similar results or sometimes even better results than surgery by combining multiple different modalities . . . to give a wonderful appearance of youth, vibrancy, and staying natural!”
What do you love about the North Shore?
On the North Shore there’s an eclectic, diverse community, both with regard to people that live here, and also visitors! It offers wonderful recreational activities, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and beautiful natural escapes where you can go canoeing, kayaking, hiking, boating, and enjoy other fun opportunities. I think people are very welcoming and wholesome here.
What makes your days happy?
I feel so blessed by the presence and camaraderie of our patients. They are such wonderful people! For years, every three and a half months, patients have come to see me for their beauty maintenance treatments. I feel like we’re one big family here on the North Shore. To have grown together over 22 years is just so precious and so special. To have beautiful relationships with my patients and to know that I’ve been able to help them on many different levels holds a special place in my heart. Not only do I help patients on the appearance level to look the best they possibly can, which gives them more pep in their step, but I also give them more self-confidence and this allows them to enjoy their lives more and feel more fulfilled on a spiritual level too.
I have such an incredible team and I wouldn’t have been able to achieve such a thriving and reputable center without them. Our Center for Classic Beauty is known far and wide for our treatments. Both nationally and internationally, our work is held in high esteem. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without my amazing team. I love working with them and we have beautiful relationships. Our everyday life is very pleasant, even though we work hard. We’re very supportive of each other. We’re very supportive of our patients, and each of us has relationships with our patients. So, it’s kind of like a little clubhouse.
Most people wouldn’t want to open a high school, and even fewer people would actually do it, but those people aren’t Molly Martins, president of the Academy at Penguin Hall, an independent, all-girls college preparatory school in Wenham. But Martins saw a need on the North Shore for an independent, all-girls school.
“I live by the words, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected,’” says Martins, a mother of five daughters and a former vice president of finance and administration at two colleges. “And I truly believe that I’’ve been very blessed in my life in so many ways.”
She believes the Academy at Penguin Hall provides an opportunity for young women to build their confidence and competence in a place that is “supportive yet challenging,” as well as giving them the freedom to take risks and try new things, which often happens in a single-gender environment, especially for girls.
When you think about the word education, what comes to mind?
It’s not just the books. It is how we expand our minds, it’s how we look at the world. In our curriculum, which I think is really interesting, our approach is one that [asks], “What,” “So what,” and “Now what.” For me the education is really happening when you get to the “now what.” You build on the “what” in the technical pieces: the information, the facts and figures, the dates, and people. Then you learn “so what”: What does that matter? And then from there, take it to the “now what.” What are you going to do with that information? How are you going to use it make this world a better place? How are you going to expand your mind? So I think of education in that way. It’s not just the memorization of information but taking it into those steps. Again, that’s very consistent with what we do here, both in and out of the classroom.
What does community mean to you?
Well, I love the idea of thinking of all different types of community, and that is very much what we have done here at the school within our largest community, being everyone who is here. And then our school is broken down into smaller parts of that community, and I think that is important. I think that’s the same with being part of the North Shore, being part of Wenham, and being part of larger and smaller types of communities.
But it’s all about the connections that you’re making within each of those groups, whatever the combination of people might be. It’s those connections, it’s those things that bring us together around a topic, around a cause, around something that is important for us. And we continue to work with our students and talk about the importance of partnering and being part of a lot of different communities, from a couple of people to a much larger one: how important that is and what they can bring to that. It’s most important what they’re bringing, not what they’re taking.
They say everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but talking to Susan Kanoff might make you doubt that’s true when it comes to her. Kanoff is the founder of Uncommon Threads, a nonprofit in Lawrence that provides low-income women, who are referred through local social services agencies, with beautiful clothing, stylist services, empowerment workshops, and other programs. It’s served more than 2,700 women in fiscal year 2022, 17 percent more than in 2021. Now, Uncommon Threads is going national.
“My vision has always been to replicate Uncommon Threads in other areas of the country, and I’ve been working diligently on a plan for program expansion,” she says. “It looks like this could become a reality, as we hope to have a second chapter launched on the West Coast within the next six months.”
In addition to Uncommon Threads, Kanoff, who has been living with a form of leukemia since 2018, cofounded Kicking Cancer in Heels, a community for women impacted by cancer to “live their best lives through information, connection, hope, and support.”
What’s your favorite thing about work?
It truly fulfills me knowing that I’m making a difference in the lives of others, whether it be by supporting low-income women at Uncommon Threads, through Kicking Cancer in Heels (my patient advocacy work), or by breaking down the stereotypes associated with aging on The Midlife Fashionista (her fashion blog/Instagram). Although each sector of my work is different, there are also many common threads (no pun intended).
What makes you motivated each day?
Well, I can’’t say that I’m motivated every day, although a strong cup of coffee helps! However, my desire to help others keeps me moving forward with purpose. It certainly has been challenging working remotely for the past two and a half years since I’’m a people person, but the virtual connections I make on a daily basis with incredible people, inspires me to do even more. I am also driven by my ideas, which happen to keep me up at night. I have a hard time turning my brain off, but I love creating and making things happen!
What do you love about the community on the North Shore?
In addition to our beautiful location (close to the beach, mountains, Boston, etc.), our community is exceptionally kind and giving. People truly care about others and generously pitch in to support those in need. When I started Uncommon Threads, I was blown away by how many community members and businesses stepped forward to offer assistance . . . and they still do! Kindness lives!
On a warm day in August, I made my way through the bustling, tourist-laden streets of Gloucester to the Beauport Hotel. I was going to meet entrepreneur and owner Sheree Grant, a hard-working veteran of the hospitality world, who has dedicated her career to excellence in her chosen field. Soft-spoken and petite, Grant is as warm and welcoming as her luxury hotel and its attentive staff.
A friendly hostess ushers us to a leather booth at the 1606 Restaurant and Oyster Bar, an upscale yet relaxed dining room overlooking the water. With nautical flags, model schooners, and varnished walls reminiscent of the interior of a wooden yacht, there is no mistaking you are by the sea. After ordering (Sheree recommends the tuna niçoise), we settle in to talk about success, leadership, community, and family.
Who was your mentor?
“When I was a young girl, my grandfather, Dan Grant, and my father—of the same name—worked at the old Ritz Carlton on Newbury Street,” she explains. Sheree’s grandfather was a bellman, and her father was the head bartender. “That was the late ’60s and early ’70s, and I would go and spend hours at the hotel following my father around, learning all I could about the hotel—from greeting guests to cleaning rooms to food service. I would watch it all,” says Sheree, “and it’s how I learned the business. I watched him interact with the staff and with guests—he always did so with respect and kindness. He was my mentor.”
Sheree’s Core Values:
These values of respect and kindness spilled over into Sheree’s own life and career. She received a degree in business from Merrimack College and her culinary arts degree from Newbury College. Sheree worked for the Marriott Corporation from 1978 to 1998 and represented Marriott in many countries. She became known as the turnaround specialist for properties needing additional support.
A Snapshot of Sheree’s Success:
In 2005, Sheree struck out on her own. She purchased the Gloucester Maritime Terminal, one of only three private homeland security ports in the country. She then opened Cruiseport, a dreamy events hall with panoramic views of Gloucester Harbor. Next came Seaport Grille, a lively open-air eatery on the water with award-winning fried clams and friendly service. Beauport Princess (now Beauport Cruiselines)—a floating events venue on the sea—was soon added to Sheree’s repertoire. And she also opened Rail Stop in 2017 in Allston, a restaurant celebrating the rail system in the 1920s and ’30s.
However, her largest project to date is the four-story, 115,000-square-foot Beauport Hotel, completed in the summer of 2016. The hotel was built on the site of a long-defunct fish processing plant famous as the place where Clarence Birdseye pioneered frozen foods.
Sheree’s Favorite Spot at Beauport Hotel:
Overlooking Pavilion Beach, Gloucester Harbor, and 10-Pound Light in the distance, the 94-room luxury hotel has transformed Gloucester’s waterfront in many ways, creating more than 400 jobs for the city as well as bringing world-class accommodations to this tourist destination and hard-working fishing port. “My favorite spot in the hotel is the Clarence Birdseye Rooftop Bar—the views are just spectacular,” she says. “I love to end my day with a glass of wine or a cocktail and take in the Atlantic.”
When asked about her favorite aspect of owning these hospitality and event venues, she says it’s the people. Whether it is a guest at the Beauport or a server at the Seaport Grille. She approaches everyone with kindness and respect and instills these values in her staff. Sheree attributes much of her success to her entire leadership team, which includes some of her long-time staff, Lauren Johnston, Ray Johnston, and Jeanne Hennessy, who share Sheree’s passion and drive for excellence.
Sheree is active in several civic and charitable groups and is generous—with both her time and resources—to the Cape Ann community. Sheree continues to serve and has served on several boards including Addison Gilbert Hospital, North Shore Chamber of Commerce, and most recently Bishop Fenwick High School. Her generosity is vast and far-reaching; she gives to many local nonprofit groups, such as the Open-Door Pantry and Pathways for Children. She speaks across the country on the topic of leadership and empowering women in business.
Sheree was a founding board member of GMGI (Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute), an addition to Gloucester’s harbor of ocean-centered enterprises. The new institute works in collaboration with fishermen, scientists, and environmental agencies to create a world-class facility dedicated to marine sciences.
Sheree’s true passion is her family. She lost her son, Jeffrey G. DeLorenzo, tragically in a car accident but says she still learns from him every day. She is close to her daughter, Judy, and Jeffrey’s twin, Alan. The family just welcomed Sheree’s first grandchild.
With so many accomplishments in her career, Sheree is still looking for opportunities to improve her business portfolio as well as the Cape Ann community she calls home. A true Wonder Woman among us.
Giblees in Danvers is a renowned, 10,000-square-foot clothing store selling top-of-the-line menswear from designers around the world, but for Alan Gibeley, president at Giblees, Inc., it’s much more than that.
“We are almost like a clubhouse,” he says. “It’s a store where the majority of our clientele is repeat customers. Our clients are our friends.”
In fact, it’s so much like a clubhouse that Giblees has a 12-foot coffee bar where customers can sit with their laptop and a cappuccino and watch TV, shoot the breeze, or get some work done while they wait for their alterations—or just because they want to catch up with friends.
It’s at that bar where Gibeley especially misses his dad, Robert, who passed away in March and who was the second-generation owner of the business, taking over from his own father. Gibeley says he and his dad would meet at the bar every morning and talk about the business over coffee together.
“My dad would normally be right here next to me,” he says.
Now, he’s looking toward the future with his wife and two daughters, and aims to have a presence in Boston again, post-COVID. In the meantime, he’s doing what he’s always done.
“People are looking for the special brands and the special care that we give to every client,” he says.
What’s your favorite thing about going to work every day?
My favorite thing is the people and the clothes. I still get up out of my office chair when I see UPS arrive and see what brands are coming in, to see my staff, the receiving personnel, open up the new boxes, whether it’s from Italy or another country, and see how it comes in. It’s so exciting to open up the brand-new merchandise. And also to meet and greet all our clients who come in. We just have a lot of great people who come in this door, from big executives to blue collar guys who own plumbing companies and electrical companies who have built their small businesses themselves to be, in some cases, massive businesses today. It’s a social club on top of a clothing store.
What does community mean to you here on the North Shore?
This store supports a lot of local fundraising events, and a lot of our clients are part of these and part of running these local charities. I’m always accessible. It’s easy to pick up the phone and say, Alan, look I have a fundraiser, can you help me out? Can you do something? And we always do our best to support local, between the high schools and the charitable events that are based nearby.
Todd Rogers Berberian
Lots of people describe their style as “classic with a twist,” but Todd Rogers Berberian calls his “a twist with some classic.” On the day he spoke to Northshore magazine, he was wearing khakis adorned with patches and paint, a terrycloth shirt, Yohji Yamamoto Y-3 sneakers, and some “awesome” tinted lenses in—of course—a pair of Todd Rogers Eyewear frames.
Surely that fun and fabulous style is a big part of why people love the Andover-based Todd Rogers Eyewear, and its eponymous eyeglasses line, which includes collections like Todd Rogers Essential (classic designs); Whim (that twist we were talking about); and Jackson Rogers (a kids’ eyewear collection named after Berberian’s oldest son). After spending years honing his craft as an optician, Berberian launched Todd Rogers Eyewear in 2009 with frames of his own design that emphasize amazing style, great materials, and a perfect fit.
The business’s brick and mortar shop in Andover is a full-service optometry practice and optical shop offering Todd Rogers Eyewear products as well as vision exams, contact lenses, and prescription glasses.
“It’s about quality, fashion, and function all rolled into one. So a Todd Rogers frame is not only a good-looking frame; it’s also a very good quality frame,” he says.
What makes you proud day to day?
Daily, we have we have people from the Merrimack Valley or the North Shore as well as beyond who have heard about us and have these amazing stories about how their son or daughter couldn’t see well and they went to all these places; came here for an exam and we fit them properly with the appropriate lenses and frames; and they’ve never seen as well. And we have a lot of people that come from all over the state, and New Hampshire, too, and say, ‘I have this wild prescription, and no one’s been able to get it right. We’ve heard that you can do that.’ And we really send people out of the office really happy and saying, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen so well.’ That really makes me proud.
What motivates you?
I have an entrepreneurial kind of brain and also an attitude that anything is possible. I have a frame line where I don’t come from a designer background, really. And I just really feel that everything is possible,
or anything is possible. And my motivation is myself and my kids. I just want to create a better life for all involved. [When I] think of the one thing that would motivate me, I think it’s just my constant thirst for what I can do. What can be done.
When Bill Hanney reopened the North Shore Music Theatre in 2010, after saving it from bankruptcy and foreclosure, the response he got from North Shore residents was overwhelming. And it still is.
“People are so happy that this theater got saved. You would think I invented all the cures for cancer,” he says. “It’s a beloved landmark for entertainment in the area.”
It’s also a local icon, from its annual productions of A Christmas Carol to producing the world premiere of the musical Memphis in 2003, which went on to win four 2010 Tony Awards including Best Musical.
Hanney, who also owns the Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island, was looking for another theater to buy when he heard on the radio that the North Shore Music Theatre was in foreclosure. He went on to stage its first season with new his ownership in June 2010 to the delight of local audiences for whom going to the North Shore Music Theatre is a cherished tradition.
“They love this theater, they love entertainment of this quality on the North Shore. You have to go into Boston—for a lot more money, a lot more hassle, a lot more everything—to get this kind of quality that they have in their backyard.”
Since then, he says they’ve stepped up the productions, pointing to shows like Sunset Boulevard, which created Norma Desmond’s mansion and a 14-foot classic car that drove on stage, and this season’s upcoming Kinky Boots, which runs October 25–November 6.
The North Shore Music Theatre’s iconic “theater in the round” also presents an exciting challenge to Hanney.
“When you do something in the round, you don’t get to hide behind scenery and beautiful, amazing drops,” he says. “What you get to do is concentrate on the story and the people that tell the story, and that’s really raw, terrific theater.”
What does it mean for you to be a leader?
I think leading is important. You need a leader. When it comes down to it, all the opinions are floated and one person has to make a decision
. . . and it always should be the one that has the most to lose, either in a job position or, in my case, in an owner position.
One thing I’ve always learned [is that] it’s the team that surrounds you. I always say when I do my opening night speeches to my audience, I’ve got to have you give a big round of applause to my team because they make me look good.
What does success mean to you?
Success to me, it just means we’re still there and people are loving the shows. Success is putting out something—doing anything—that you are proud of and hopefully that does well. Success is, really, do the right thing, no matter what it is. It means you’re doing the best you can for what you’re doing.
Doneeca Thurston hears regularly from people who have lived in Lynn their whole lives but had no idea there has been a museum dedicated to the city’s history and culture operating downtown since 1897. As the executive director of the Lynn Museum and Historical Society, Thurston’s mission is to change that dynamic by making the institution a more engaging place that reflects the rich diversity of the city.
“We are fortunate to have so many different kinds of people in Lynn,” she says. “We want to do more to capture that history.”
Leadership in Lynn
Thurston took on her current leadership position in 2019, becoming the first person of color to head up the organization even as Lynn has long been a very multicultural community. But Thurston’s involvement with the museum began years earlier. She worked as a summer volunteer in 2010 when she was home on break from Bucknell University, where she studied history. When she started graduate school at Northeastern University, she returned to the Lynn Museum as an intern, later moving into part-time work as a programs assistant.
After completing her master’s degree in public history, Thurston moved on to a position at the Peabody Essex Museum. Five years later, however, when the Lynn Museum and Historical Society was looking for new leadership, she was eager to return to the organization where her museum career began.
“It’s my dream job,” she says. “This place has a special connection for me.”
Creating Community Connections
Since taking the position, she’s forged ahead with plans to engage and connect with community members, even those who have in the past felt excluded from the worlds of museums and art. Throughout her education and career, Thurston has often found herself the only Black woman in certain spaces, so she wants to make sure the Lynn Museum is not a place where that will happen to other people. “Galleries and museums are traditionally white spaces,” she says, “but they should be for everyone.”
The museum has been doing more to include Lynn’s Black history in its exhibits. Earlier this year, for example, for “Untold Stories: A History of Black People in Lynn,” the museum team worked with community members to collect artifacts, documents, and oral histories to complement items in the museum’s collection and tell the story of Black life in Lynn through the years. Another recent exhibit examined Khmer identity, culture, and voices, a nod to the city’s Cambodian population.
And thinking of the long term, Thurston is also encouraging the museum to engage in some introspection, to consider what aspects of Lynn the collections should speak to, whose perspective should be included, and how that representation can be achieved. There’s even an exhibit dedicated to that concept. Collecting For: The Artifacts of Lynn asks visitors to contemplate how museums make choices about their collections and displays, and how these choices can help preserve and shape history.
The ongoing engagement, assessment, and evolution are all part of Thurston’s mission for the museum—now and into the future.
“We know that the Lynn community has continued to grow and evolve, because history is happening every day,” she says. “Hopefully, we’ll be here for another 125 years to come.”
Nicholas Yebba, Sr., and Nicholas Yebba, Jr.
Nicholas Yebba, Sr., had already “retired” (i.e., sold his incredibly successful, international car rental business) when he and his son, Nick Jr., opened Teresa’s Italian Eatery in Middleton 16 years ago.
To say that the restaurant was successful is an understatement.
“I’m gonna be honest with you,” Nick Sr. says. “It took off like a bat out of hell.”
Today, Nick Sr. is president and owner of Teresa’s Hospitality Group, which has several restaurants under its umbrella, and Nick Jr. is partner and executive chef, and even after all these years, Nick Sr. says working with his son is wonderful. “It was the best thing I ever did,” he says. “We haven’t had a bad day yet.”
What does community mean to you?
Community’s very important to us. It’s made up of our friends, family, people that we do business with, people that we respect. People are important to us, and that’s what community is. We try to do everything we can to pitch in and help as much as we can with anything that comes up in this community. We respect community. The people here are great. We’ve met a lot of really good people up here in Middleton.
What is your best business advice?
I think many times people go into business with the wrong idea. If you’re going to go into business, you’ve got to love whatever you’re going to do. You’ve got to sleep it, eat it, drink it, you really do. You can’t go into business thinking you’re going to hit the home run the first day out, or you’re going to become rich and famous overnight because that doesn’t work.
What does work is putting your head down and working every day, trying to build your customers, trying to build your business, and you know something? If you do that right, it just comes along; it almost comes automatically. You’ve got to love what you do. It’s got to be in your blood, it’s got to be in your veins.
What’s your leadership philosophy?
I have to be involved with everything. Even with the car rental [business], as big as it was, I have to know what’s going on from the top all the way to the bottom. I’ve got to see if whatever we’re doing in the executive boardroom is going all the way down to the person that’s buying the sandwich at the restaurant, that we’re making them happy.
A lot of people like to sit at a big desk and call all the shots. Well, I like to sit at the desk and talk to my people because they know sometimes more than I do. That’s another thing I do. I like to hire people much smarter than myself.
Jeffrey Arcari and Julie Arcari Cook
Most family businesses don’t make it beyond a second or third generation, but those family businesses aren’t run by Jeff Arcari and Julie Arcari Cook, a brother and sister team who are co-owners and co-CEOs of Landry & Arcari Rugs and Carpeting.
Over the decades, Landry & Arcari has become synonymous with finely crafted, one-of-a-kind handmade rugs, broadloom carpeting, and antique rugs from across the globe. Jeff travels around the world working with weavers in countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Nepal to design private-production rugs that buyers and designers can’t find anywhere else.
“Even on the internet it’s hard to find specialty rugs,” Jeff says. Landry & Arcari specifies everything from the colors, to the design, to the materials, to the dyeing process when working with these weavers. “All those little ingredients are what make the end result special.”
However, the personal connection Jeff has with the weavers is the extra piece that adds something special to the final product.
“It’s the collaboration between us and the weavers that really makes it unique,” Julie says. “He’s established partnerships and relationships that have lasted many years.”
They help support weavers and their families through education and literacy programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, Julie is on the board of the nonprofit education program The Barakat Society that works in those countries.
All of that translates to the overall customer experience.
“We really pride ourselves in creating a really positive, fun, educational, no-barriers-up customer experience,” Julie says.
What inspires you?
Jeff: What inspires me in this business is . . . the kind of serendipitous nature of rugs. You never know what you’re going to see. If you think about it, these are personal expressions, this is art. Art on the floor, art underfoot. Often you will see in tribal weaving very, very esoteric unique things that you’ve never seen before. I look at 100 or 200 new rugs a day. I see lots of rugs, and I’m always amazed that I’m able to see something I haven’t seen. That inspires me, that thrill of coming to work and not knowing exactly what I’m going to see.
What’s your proudest accomplishment?
Julie: My proudest accomplishment is growing this business. I think family businesses tend not to succeed beyond a second and third generation, and I am so proud that we have been able to work together and go through all the ups and downs of our family, of the economy. We’ve been able to stick together, stick to our goals, and our vision for the company and our family values.
What’s your best mistake?
Jeff: The best mistake is buying a rug that probably won’t sell, but I have to have it because it’s so funky.
Grace Gonzalez Connolly
Grace Gonzalez Connolly believes that education and healthcare are “two fundamental human needs” and has directed her volunteer work in that direction for years, from serving on the Anna Jaques Hospital board of trustees in many capacities to cofounding the Anna Jaques Hospital Community Health Foundation.
She now serves as chairperson of the board at Anna Jaques Hospital and is the first woman to hold that role. She believes that access to good healthcare is an important bedrock of a community, and that it’s also part of the community’s job to help keep that bedrock strong.
“It takes a lot of community effort to have a strong community hospital,” says Gonzalez Connolly, who’s also a partner in the law firm Connolly & Connolly in Newburyport. “I always looked at this as a community resource, and that my job was really trying to be the very best steward I could be of this community resource.”
What is the importance of service?
I was born in Cuba, and I came to this country as a little girl. I don’t even remember Cuba. And I felt very welcomed here, and I was very grateful for the educational opportunities that I had here, for the healthcare that I received here. And I think—in my family, anyway—there was this sense of obligation to give back to your community. And I’ve always felt that very deeply, and I think particularly for underserved parts of our community, so I’ve always had a sense of obligation and a desire to serve.
What does creativity mean to you?
We all have a creative side to us. When I think of a holistic person—a whole person—if you’re not an artist, if you’re not a ballet dancer, if you’re not a poet, or a writer yourself, I think we all derive a certain measure of pleasure and enjoyment and spirituality from that aspect of life. And that’s certainly been the case for me. I do a jazz class at The Dance Place [in Newburyport] every Saturday morning religiously unless I can’t attend for some reason. Aside from the physical exercise, it is just a great joy. It’s a wonderful group of women. And I love poetry. I love reading.
What does community mean to you here on the North Shore?
Community, I think, is one of the most important words we might have in our vocabulary. When I think of community, I think of people coming together to create an environment that’s mutually beneficial to where you live. And certainly in the greater Newburyport area, I think it’s such an amazing example of how that works. It’s sense of a place where you belong, where you call home, where you feel welcomed and accepted.