Staten Island Hotelier, Restaurateur and Developers’ Second Social Enterprise Eatery will Continue the Mission to Give Back to Staten Island Community
“Not many people have confused me with Paul Newman, but it’s nice to be mentioned in the same sentence”, philanthropist Richard Nicotra admits with a chuckle.
Like Paul Newman, Nicotra along with his wife Lois, founded a social enterprise business in which 100% of the profits go to charity. Friends have called this venture, a “Newman-style philanthropic business model for this millennium”.
In 2011 Lois and Richard Nicotra made a gift of $1.6 million to build this social enterprise eatery known as the COMMONS Cafè. 100% of the café’s profits are dispersed through the Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation which aids non-profit organizations on Staten Island, while also providing Scholarships for college to Lois and Richard Nicotra’s employees’ children and grandchildren.
The COMMONS Café gave the Nicotrases an opportunity to create a new philanthropic model that yields more immediate returns.
The Nicotras share, “We view our investment in the café as a substantial stone tossed into a pond of need. We hoped the stone would create ripples of philanthropy that inspire others to give or, at the very least, inspires them to order a hamburger from us and know that the profit from their meal is a social investment. The café was
about creating a model that will identify areas of need and fill the void.”
With the help of generous donors, the Nicotrases have been able to see that ripple. For the last two years, Joe Dai, President of MacKenzie Door Company, gifted each grant recipient with an American Express Gift Card so that they can show a kindness to others. This ‘Pay It Forward Project’ is a result of Mr. Dai’s generous donations to the Nicotra Foundation. The kindness is spreading like wildfire.
A quick-service breakfast, burger and fresh salad restaurant, the COMMONS café is located on the grounds of the Corporate Park of Staten Island. The restaurant’s mission is simple, “Eat Good. Do Good.” The 1,750 sq. ft. café is nestled between two of the Nicotras’ office buildings at the Teleport. The café also has an outdoor seating area for 60 with a performance stage where the Nicotra’s recently placed a piano as a gift to the community; inviting any piano players to drop by and play whenever the café is open. The Nicotras’ Corporate Park of Staten Island is comprised
of more than 1 million sq.ft. of commercial space in 10 buildings with 200 tenant companies, 10,000 daily visitors and 5,000 employees. The Nicotras also own and operate the Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn & Suites with more than 400 guest rooms and 50,000 sq. ft. of banquet and meeting space.
In addition to the Lois and Richard Nicotra Foundation, the Nicotras launched the Bloomfield Conservancy in 1998, a not-for-profit organization that is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the protected woodlands that surround the Corporate Park.
The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation has awarded nearly $850,000 to almost 400 non-profit organizations and scholarship recipients. The Nicotras’ COMMONS cafè, has been recognized by Newman’s Own Foundation and Facebook for their community building efforts. The “Eat Good. Do Good.” mission will be replicated later this year when the Nicotras open a second social enterprise eatery, Pienza Pizza & Pasta, in their newest building Corporate Commons Three, a Silver LEED certified 330,000 sq. ft., 8-story Class A office building with a 40,000 square feet organic rooftop garden that will allow Pienza, the COMMONS cafè and the Nicotras’ other eateries at the Hilton Garden Inn, to feature fresh, local produce.
The profit donated from Pienza is expected to double the Nicotras’ existing social enterprise philanthropy to Staten Island, the borough they love.