Proudly Made in Pittsburgh: Inside 10 Family Businesses
Many family-owned and operated businesses that have been around for generations still are thriving today in Pittsburgh. We take you behind the scenes of 10 companies that are carrying on their legacies close to home.
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Development Dimensions International, Inc.
Tacy Byham CEO (pictured)
Bill Byham Founder and Executive Chairman (pictured)
Carolyn Byham Executive Vice President of Planning and Design
Carter Byham Interviewer, Global Assessment Operations
As a teenager, Tacy Byham faced a daunting task — keeping her peers entertained all night at a church lock-in event. She asked her father, Bill Byham, then CEO of Development Dimensions International (DDI), for ideas.
Bill, now 79, knew exactly what the kids should do. It was the very thing he had done himself: start a company. He launched DDI [ddiworld.com] in 1970 in his basement in Mt. Lebanon, after implementing a new type of hands-on leadership assessment at JCPenney and writing about it for the Harvard Business Review. He started getting calls from other companies who wanted to use this assessment method for their own managers. He realized there was a business opportunity as a consultant, and he jumped into the entrepreneurial game.
Tacy wasn’t so sure about starting businesses with her friends; live Monopoly didn’t necessarily sound like fun. But her dad was one of the parental chaperones, and she thought she’d give it a try. At 1 a.m., she proposed the game. Her friends loved the idea.
Bill watched his daughter emerge as a leader during the activity, and something clicked. He wondered if she would want to be his successor.
Tacy took longer to feel that same click. “I didn’t come out of college saying, ‘I want to immediately work with my father,’” she says.
After an early job meant working for a difficult boss, however, she started thinking back to what her father did as an Industrial and Organizational Psychologist, carefully assessing what type of people would thrive in management roles. She applied to a Ph.D. program in I-O Psychology; after earning her degree, she worked as a leadership trainer for DDI in London.
Tacy, 47, had her own ideas to add to her father’s company. DDI thrived with its assessment methods, which she likens to a flight simulator for managers, but she noticed a lot of companies from which top-level executives were retiring. Those companies needed to “accelerate” the successors of those positions, and the common solution was to send those successors to business school.
“That’s good for the business side of the equation but not as much [for] the human side of the equation,” Tacy says. “We wanted to help them close their gaps as leaders.”
So she worked on creating her own program in executive development. It proved to be a hit and was one of DDI’s fastest-growing business offerings for several years.
Bill Byham last year announced his intention to move into the executive chairman role. Tacy made the transition from her job as senior vice president and worked with him for six months to learn his position as CEO.
“I have an appreciation for the complexities of what Dad’s dealt with on a day-to-day basis for so many years. You only see something when you step into the other side,” she says.
Fred Donatelli & Son Cemetery Memorials
Fred “Corky” Donatelli III Owner (pictured)
Phil Donatelli Sales and Marketing, OakCrest Pet Crematory
For 50 years, Fred Donatelli & Son Cemetery Memorials has honored the lives of the deceased on monuments. Owner Fred “Corky” Donatelli III started working at age 8 and takes his calling seriously. He says memorials are erected for only about 50 percent of people after their deaths; for those who will be honored, Donatelli, 56, makes it his practice to consult with their loved ones to ensure the result is just right.
One of eight kids, he became owner of Donatelli & Son [freddonatellimemorials.com] in the early ’90s. His father, Fred Donatelli II, 83, the company founder, drops in to greet customers; one of his brothers, Phil, 52, works with him; and his mom, Deloris, 83, can be spotted on occasion. Corky doesn’t simply work in the indoor and outdoor showrooms, which collectively display about 300 designs in multiple stone styles and shades.
“I still wear work boots. I still go out on the trucks,” he says.
While installing gravestones, he and his crew tidy up and place grass seed and mulch.
“I give it what I consider a personal touch. I tell people, too — memorials are for the living, not for the dead,” he says.
Regarding the pieces themselves, Corky says sandblasting, which emerged in the industry in the ’40s, “opened up a new era for memorial art” and has helped to reduce work time significantly — going from spending days engraving while using a pneumatic hammer and chisel to mere hours.
The price tag on monuments can range from a few hundred dollars for a tree marker to five digits for a sizable memorial, though Donatelli sells more moderately priced monuments. He’s used computer-design software for years to get precise results consistently; clients know what they’re getting up front by way of a detailed contract, prepared with a personal touch.
As for the future, Donatelli notes that the practice of cremation is on the rise, so he considers the monument industry to be “viable — but not growing.”
Donatelli says the monument side is the “largest capital venture of the three” aspects of the Ross Township-based family business; it also includes OakCrest Pet Crematory (providing pet cremation services for the public) and Pittsburgh Cremation Service (offering private human cremation services to funeral directors affiliated with a funeral home).
Of being involved with his clan’s business, he says he “wouldn’t have it any other way” and that “everyone is moving in the same direction for the betterment of the family.”
Laura Karet CEO (pictured)
David Shapira Executive Chairman of the Board
It was 1931, near the peak of the Great Depression, when five Pittsburgh families that had already met success in the grocery business came together to start Giant Eagle.
Throughout the decades, the store grew — literally and physically. In the ’50s, Giant Eagle [gianteagle.com] expanded its average store size to 15,000 square feet. By 2000, the chain’s largest locations each would be more than 100,000 square feet in size, and the company would employ more than 36,000 people. Representatives from each of those five founding families still work at Giant Eagle today, serving on its Board of Directors, working in its corporate offices and working in stores and retail centers.
The previous four decades of leadership and the company’s future, however, belong to one family — the Shapiras. In 1980, David Shapira, now 74, was named CEO and would serve for the next 22 years. When his daughter, Laura Karet, was named his successor in 2011, he said in a prepared statement: “Laura has an extensive background in food retailing and manufacturing, both within and outside of Giant Eagle. Her amiable and open style has won the respect of our 36,000 Team Members, customers, suppliers and business partners.”
Karet, 47, previously worked at Sara Lee directing branded marketing and at Procter & Gamble managing brands such as Crisco, Folgers and Secret.
In 2000, Karet was hired at Giant Eagle as vice president of marketing; she subsequently served as both senior executive vice president and chief strategy officer, where she managed Giant Eagle’s business plan. As part of her transition to CEO, she turned her attention to her employees.
“Throughout my life, my father has instilled in me the need to always respect others,” she says. “This is an ideal that we as a company have come to not only embrace but set as the standard for our future success. He has fostered my understanding that the 36,000 Team Members who work in our stores, retail support centers and corporate offices every day are the lifeblood of our company and will be the drivers of all the success we have as a company,” she says.
As do many Pittsburgh natives, Karet says she was happy to “boomerang” back to the city. Karet and the Giant Eagle team have been focusing on developing the Market District and GetGo Café brands by planning an expansion of both into Indianapolis this fall.
“Even as my career took me to places far from Pittsburgh, my heart has always been with Giant Eagle and our wonderful city. I am thrilled and honored to now help lead a company that has played such a significant role in my life, and those of our Team Members and customers,” Karet says.
Mary Mancini Hartner Owner (pictured)
Nick Mancini Hartner Vice President (pictured)
James Mancini came to America from Italy in the early 1900s with a dream of making bread. Like a lot of good family stories, not everyone can agree where the first loaves of Mancini’s [mancinisbakery.com] bread were made — but James’ niece Mary Mancini Hartner, 67, says she often has heard that her uncle started working in a small rented garage just outside of Pittsburgh.
James knew where to find an audience. He baked fresh bread through the night and then took the loaves to a nearby road crew while the workers were on break. Bread sold well.
It wasn’t long before he acquired a proper bakery. In 1926, he started baking in a one-room shop in McKees Rocks; that shop still has the original brick oven today. He started experimenting and came up with his famous “twist” bread that is one of the bakery’s flagship loaves.
Jimmy’s family joined him in the business, with his brother, Ernest, becoming a partner. Ernest told his son, Frankie, that Mancini’s would one day be his. Frankie loved baking and developed Mancini’s famous raisin bread. When Frankie died in an accident in 1977, however, it was Ernest’s daughter, Mary, who started helping her father at the store.
Years later, she’s the owner — a title that she jokes includes “picking up the trash.” In 2000, her son, Nick, 37, joined as vice president.
When Mary first began working at the bakery, her goal was to not rock the boat.
“We tried to keep everything the same, the products the same — and even when computers came, we tried to make the forms look the same on the screen as they were on paper,” she says.
Eventually things changed — ingredients weren’t made anymore, suppliers went out of business and she started feeling as if she could steer the business in new directions. Mancini’s started distributing to more restaurants and grocery stores.
At the same time, the bakery still churns out the old favorites the old-fashioned way. Dough rises in large bins before it’s pulled by hand onto a table, sliced into sections and allowed to rise again for hours. Nick can pull a section of just-risen dough, whip it back and forth into a long snake and loop it into a twist in less than 30 seconds.
Nick has pushed the bakery forward in his own way. He opened a location in 2003 in the Strip District with his younger brother and cousin and another on his own in 2008 in Market Square, sharing that space with Prantl’s Bakery. He uses both shops as incubators for new recipes, including his multigrain loaves, brioche and his new black bun (meant to help Steelers fans color-coordinate their tailgate food).
Nick has grown up hearing stories of people coming in with their grandparents and buying twist loaves. Recently, he was at a diner wearing his Mancini’s shirt, and the waitress started to share her own story — except she hadn’t gone into the flagship store. She remembered going to the Strip District location and seeing a baker making the loaves.
Nick realized quickly whom she was talking about. “I guess now I’m the baker in the window,” he says.