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16-year-old Giulia Manco and her brother, 15-year-old Gio, spent their childhood in the restaurant where they now work with both their parents.

“The restaurant business is a very tricky industry,” said her mother, Julie Manco. “We raised the children and also the restaurant.”

Julie and Giovanni Manco brought Giovanni to The Villages in 2004. Less than a year later, Julie gave birth to Giulia in July 2005.

Moms in the community like Julie are the driving force behind hometown businesses like Giovanni’s, Custom Apparel & Gifts and others. Some started the business alongside the family, while others inherited the business from previous generations and dedicated their lives to both work and motherhood.

Hard work pays off

Julie said that starting a business took almost as much attention and time as her family, and she and her husband would not be where they are now without the help of others.

“Thank God for my mother, for grandparents,” Julie said. “She came by a few nights a week so I could work.”

When her children were younger, Julie’s mother would feed them dinner and get them ready for bed. They would call the restaurant to say goodnight to their mother.

Julie said the most difficult time for her was when her kids were toddlers and they got moody in the early evening and she wasn’t around.

However, because she had help in the early years of starting the business, she was eventually able to become a stay-at-home mom.

“You obviously go through the mother’s debt because you don’t want to be apart from your kids, but you do want to be there for your business,” she said. “But I knew I was doing it for (my kids) and eventually we could all be together and benefit from the work.”

Julie felt it was important for her children to see hard work firsthand.

As the children grew older, they spent more time in the restaurant, and now both teenagers work part-time as waiters and hostess.

“It’s rewarding because having your own business…your kids can watch you build a business and see how much time and effort it takes, and it makes them hungry for it themselves,” she said.

Julie said taking off her mother’s cap at work and treating her children like the rest of the workforce can be challenging.

“I have to remind myself sometimes not to be hard on them,” she said. “As a server, I walk up and say, ‘I need this credit card’ to close an account. I have to remember that (Giulia) is allowed to take his time or make mistakes like the other servers.”

Giulia and Gio saw their mother and father in the roles of parent and boss, but the teenagers didn’t let their family ties interfere with their work.

“You want to expect more from them because they’re your kids,” Julie said. “But when they work in the restaurant, they are first and foremost employees and I have to show them that respect.”

pass on family values

Roberto and Oksana Manco, brother and sister-in-law of Giovanni Manco, own Roberto’s Ristorante & Pizzeria at Pinellas Plaza in The Villages.

Their eldest son Alessio, 11, enjoys spending time at the restaurant. Whether he’s behind the checkout helping with orders or sitting at a table doing homework, Alessio loves the energy of business.

Oksana said her other two children, Anastasia and Anthony, enjoy dining out but are too young to express interest in a job.

“Sometimes I’m surprised that Alessio enjoyed working so much even as a little boy,” says Oksana. “Even as a little boy he liked to make pizza from the dough.”

Oksana said she’s proud to see her son interested in the family business and said it’s nice that her children are slowly spending more time in the business.

“Restaurants and food and cooking — it’s so much a part of our family,” Oksana said. “You also have to split your time between the restaurant and your family at home.”

Oksana helps in the restaurant by taking orders, bringing food and organizing schedules.

She and Roberto show their passion for work in front of their children as an example of what it means to work hard and love your job.

“Companies need jobs,” she said. “The family also needs work. The challenge is not to put one before the other and let something suffer.”

Family interactions and relationships like these are important for long-term development into adulthood, according to Ming Cui, a professor of family and child studies at Florida State University.

However, mothers must balance life and work with their children, knowing that overexposure to others can lead to growing frustration within the family dynamic.

“Family members working together towards the common goal enhance family solidarity,” Cui said. “(But) living and working together (can) lead to more conflict and rivalry. Advocating for work-life balance and setting boundaries—keeping space and time apart—should help improve family dynamics.”

Cui said that finding a balance between parental warmth and discipline has positive effects on children. Giving your child room to be young and to make mistakes while still expecting them to fulfill a role as an employee is a good example of the give and take it takes to have kindness and affection alongside authority .

bring families closer together

Robin Carr, co-owner of Custom Apparel & Gifts in Southern Trace Plaza, said all of her children spent time working at the store.

Robin and her husband Shawn Carr have three children: April, 20, Autumn, 18, and Shawn Jr., 16.

April works full time at the store and does a little bit of everything. When she’s not doing custom embroidery, she’s working on shipping and receiving or helping clients.

“She’s a jack of all trades,” said Robin. “She’s like my personal assistant as she helps me with everything I can’t do.”

Robin said she wouldn’t be able to run the shop without April’s help.

“Growing up, I knew I would eventually work in the store after school,” April said. “I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about what it would be like to be here full-time, especially working so closely with my mom.”

April said working with Robin changed their relationship for the better.

“As you get older, it’s easier to understand what’s making someone stressed, and you can interact differently, too,” April said. “She will always be my mom, but I can talk to her like grown-up friends do.”

Robin said the children have always experienced some form of retail ownership in their lives.

“We opened the (Villages) store in November 2009 and we’ve had a bit of practice,” said Robin. “When the kids were a bit small, (my family) had a (similar) shop up north.”

Before running Custom Apparel, Robin was primarily a stay-at-home mom who told herself she would never take over the family business.

However, Shawn persuaded her to be a part of it.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” she said. “In the summer, when they had no school, they were here to either help me out or just play with whatever interested them.”

Robin said having the kids in the store is the only way she and Shawn could imagine running a business.

“Having us all together all day was a dream,” said Robin. “As a mother, you want to take care of your children and spend time with them to see them grow. I have to do both. I still do that.”

Shawn Jr. works part-time at the store when he’s not working on schoolwork, and Autumn works at Nothing Bundt Cakes in La Plaza Grande.

“I like to think that growing up in the shop and seeing how (her parents) run a business was incredibly beneficial for her,” said Robin. “I wanted every boss to think, ‘Wow, what a great work ethic’ and know this comes from being here in the family shop.”

Robin always jumps at the opportunity to teach her kids about the business, knowing they could one day run it. But if not, she and Shawn still want to show them the importance of being responsible employees.

This additional focus on family relationships can have a positive impact on a child’s mental health, said William Chopik, an assistant professor of social and personality psychology at Michigan State University.

“Having your mother and father so involved in your life as a child is important for the development of childhood and early adulthood,” Chopik said. “Experiencing different roles (parents) can also have an impact on children’s lives.”

Chopik said children can benefit from seeing their parents in a role that goes beyond being parents, and seeing them exemplify a positive work ethic and healthy interpersonal relationships with others can help children develop their own skills.

“There is no one right way to become a parent,” Chopik said. “Most parents may think they are making the wrong choice, but the only thing they should be concerned about is whether their children are healthy and happy.”

Maddie Cutler is available at 352-753-1119 ext. 5386 or maddie.cutler@thevillagesmedia.com.

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