Starting Nikoli’s Pizza 16 years ago in Lower Allen Township came out of Ricci Magaro’s innate talent as a pizza chef.
Fundraising for multiple organizations came out of a desire to connect with the community.
Ricci (“Rick”) and Jeannette Magaro hardly have much extra time on their hands with Ricci running the small business pizza shop, Jeannette running her own consulting firm, Storytelling Marketing & Consulting, all while the pair raises their now 12-year-old son. But they know the value of what they do outside of their business.
“It’s important to our customers,” Jeannette Magaro said. “They really appreciate what we do. You even learn more about some of our best customers.”
The Magaros regularly raise money for Pink Hands of Hope in Mechanicsburg, and that’s led to plenty of stories from customers who have been affected by breast cancer, stories that even make their way through the pizza delivery drivers.
Customers likewise show up en masse for the annual Shamrock Showdown 5K that the couple hosts, and Jeannette estimates that they have raised more than $50,000 over the years for Diakon Youth Services, whose employees used to be loyal customers when they were located near the pizza place.
It’s successes like those that Jeannette hopes to continue with the couple’s Autism in Classrooms efforts. After their son was finally diagnosed with autism at age 10, Jeannette said they’ve made it their mission to educate people about autism, and that starts with showing children what autism is with a book co-authored by her son.
“(The book) is really for the general public students,” Jeannette said, explaining that she hopes the basic language will help children understand and know what autism is when they may encounter it later.
Nikoli’s Pizza and Catering
Owners: Ricci Magaro and Jeannette Magaro
Age: 56 and 42, respectively
How many years in business: 16 years at Nikoli’s
How many years at current location: All 16 years at 3904 Gettysburg Road
Hometown: Ricci is from Orlando, Florida, and Jeannette is from New Cumberland
What do you like best about what you do?
Rick loves his job, as he is a perfectionist, and it is important for him to execute his recipes providing a delicious meal each and every time to his customers, and provide it in a way that matches the customer’s tastes and dietary needs.
As you do business with regular customers and establish relationships, they become your friends and your neighbors and a major part of your daily interactions. You begin to care for them and find ways that you can really insert yourself with the community to ensure that you are making a difference, even if it is something small. The community has been supportive not only to our business, but they will see our kids at the shop from time to time and say “Oh, I remember when he was little” or ask about our family and how everyone is doing. We are blessed to be a part of a community that really truly cares.
What is the toughest challenge you face?
The toughest challenge we are facing right now is with our current economic situation. We are seeing more franchise and national competitors enter into our market, and we are competing for not only sales with these larger players, but we are also competing with them in a position to retain and obtain talent in which they have a more competitive advantage as they have tools to work with that we do not as a small business. With technology and change, we are also competing with companies that are sourcing delivery drivers as 1099s with little oversight to manage food safety standards and quality customer service.
Why is it important for a small business to be involved in the community and what’s your proudest accomplishment as a small business owner?
When Rick and I retire and are sipping our iced tea on a beach some day, we are going to tell stories about how we were able to make an impact on others’ lives with spreading our “More #PizzaOnEarth” message. What this means is that with something as simple as a pizza, we have been able to become a part of our community, touching lives, making an impact, from things as simple as sending a heart-shaped pizza to a spouse’s work on Valentine’s Day to executing a secret angel providing pizzas to a homeless shelter on a regular basis, to making green and pink pizzas on holidays, and raising money for breast cancer and ensuring that those funds stay in our back yard impacting our customers that are in a pinch.
We’ve been doing this race called the Shamrock Showdown 5K for something like eight years. Our customers love it. It is a lot of work, and we do it because our customers look forward to it and we just cannot bear to let them down.
What are the key elements of your business success?
Our key element of success, without a doubt, is the fact that there is no pizza shop in Central Pennsylvania that is more connected with its community than Nikoli’s, and when you make connections, you build relationships, and it helps when a competitor goes up down the street, you are able to retain much of your business. We are in an industry with huge turnover and the statistics of failure are not in favor for this industry.
What’s left to do?
When our son was diagnosed with ASD at the late age of 10, I wrote a book about Luciano’s day and how his life is the same as many kids, but how his autism makes this a little different. I was so incredibly saddened by the fact that I was helpless since there is no cure for ASD and at the same time almost felt shame and embarrassment by the fact that most people did not understand his behaviors. I realized that there are public service messages about autism and the increased statistics, there are organizations talking about what they think causes autism, but there is no real basic education as to what ASD looks like and how we can educate others to be more understanding and compassionate.
We decided that we were going to create Autism in Classrooms to get this book in classrooms and that the next generation will be a bit more understanding and compassionate. We are currently working with the fellows of Leadership Cumberland on this project to figure out the best way to get this book into classrooms without getting hung up on a lot of the red tape that exists in the public school administration system.
Additionally, it is rather important that for those to not only just reach an understanding but to truly be able to make a difference one must look beyond what an individual on the spectrum cannot do but celebrate the brilliance of what he or she can do.
This is going to be an ongoing mission and the community has been very receptive in the work we have only just begun. The book that is actually co-authored by our son, Luciano (now age 12), and is available at Nikoli’s with a $10 donation. We are really surprised by how many books have been distributed from the book being on site at Nikoli’s as so many people have a friend or family member going through a very similar experience.
“As you do business with regular customers and establish relationships, they become your friends and your neighbors and a major part of your daily interactions. You begin to care for them and find ways that you can really insert yourself with the community to ensure that you are making a difference, even if it is something small.” — Jeannette Magaro
Email Naomi Creason at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCreason
"As you do business with regular customers and establish relationships, they become your friends and your neighbors and a major part of your daily interactions. You begin to care for them and find ways that you can really insert yourself with the community to ensure that you are making a difference, even if it is something small."
— Jeannette Magaro
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