Fathers and sons taking care of business

Father’s Day. It’s not easy running a local business, but these father-son duos make it work, and have fun in the process.

| 13 Jun 2024 | 11:11

In celebration of Father’s Day, we spoke with local father-and-son business duos and discussed the experience of running an establishment together. From restaurateurs to auto repairmen, the pairs told us about their favorite parts of working together, what they’ve learned about each other, how they work through the bad days and more.

J&J Auto

The Youngs, both named John, are father-son business partners working in automotive repair. For 24 years, they have owned and operated J&J Auto in Stanhope, N.J. Although the senior Young initially tried to deter his son from auto repair, his son is “a gearhead,” he explained fondly. The pair opened a franchised Gulf station in Sparta in 2001. After 10 years in Sparta, they moved into their current facility in Stanhope to focus on automotive repairs.

What’s the best part about running a business with your son/dad?

Young father: “There’s a comfort there that we can... I don’t want to say yell at each other because we don’t. But we can discuss different things and we can also joke around very comfortably. He knows my weaknesses, I know his, so I’m very content here – or with him, I should say.”

Young son: “Just seeing him every day, that’s something to be thankful for.”

How do you work through the bad days together?

Young father: “The good part is, you have a little bit of a disagreement, you’re not likely to go... I’m going to quit and go somewhere else, cause there’s a tighter bond there.”

Young son: “Look, if you’re around the same person every day, six days a week, you’re bound to get on each other’s nerves, plain and simple. You just give each other space. Like, he’ll cool off in a few minutes, just let him be.”

What makes you successful business partners?

Young father: “We have a lot of the same values and a lot of the same thought patterns. We’re all a product of our upbringing environment, so in a lot of areas we think the same. For example, doing the right thing by the customer. I think that’s a big advantage.”

Young son: “He’s my best friend in the world. I hope I’m half the person he is. You wouldn’t have got that answer from me 10 years ago when I still knew everything already, but now I realized I don’t know everything. You do need your dad.”

Warwick General Rental

Carl Abribat and Mike Stanton are the owners of Warwick General Rental in Warwick, N.Y., where they rent out equipment to customers for construction and renovations. Abribat and his wife Barbara founded Warwick General Rental in 1990. Ten years later, the Abribats moved to their current location in Warwick a few miles north of the New Jersey border. Stanton, their son, came onboard full-time in 2002 after he graduated college.

What have you learned about each other since working together?

Abribat: “We kind of know each other better. It isn’t a perfect world. There’s good days and bad days but we can almost read what the other guy is going to do sometimes, good or bad. We just know what the other guy is thinking, most of the time.”

Stanton: “As the younger one, you get frustrated with certain things. The biggest thing you have to keep in mind is, right or wrong, you’re not going to win the fight either way. It takes a level of maturity on the son or daughter’s part because sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated because maybe you think you know more than you do. And when you’re younger it’s harder to separate the two.”

How do you work through any difficulties?

Abribat: “There isn’t really a whole lot of time to be mad for very long because you just are busy. Before you know it, you have to communicate because you have something else to talk about work-related. So, it doesn’t hang around long.”

Stanton: “The maturity thing. The younger one has to just understand, you can’t take it personal. Whether you’re right or wrong, or they are, it doesn’t matter. It’s just business. Move along.”

What’s your favorite part about working together?

Abribat: “I think laughter has a lot to do with it. There’s always jokes being cracked, and it keeps everything light. Humor is the best way to get away with your point but also not being this devil of a person.”

Stanton: “Everybody in the building works hard and I think we all enjoy one another. There’s a lot of jokes that go around, good interactions, good energy around the place. Maybe over the years I’ve gone to work and... I don’t feel like doing this today... But I’ve never gone to work and been like ‘God, I can’t stand the guy I’m working with.’ I’ve never gone through that. I think that’s important.”

Tire King

Charlie Kuperus was a dairy farmer until the previous owners of Tire King in Sussex, N.J., offered to sell the business to him. He accepted the offer and took a leap into the tire business. Now, Kuperus has owned the business for 38 years. In 2007, his son Daniel Kuperus joined his dad as a business partner. Together, the two change and repair tires on vehicles as small as wheelbarrows and as big as semi-trucks.

How do you work through the hard days together?

Charlie: “It doesn’t take us long. It doesn’t happen often. Other than that, you’ll always have something, but the position that we’re in, we have been blessed.”

Daniel: We’re built very similar. There’s a mountain today that we gotta get over, and no matter what, we have to get over it. We both think, ‘okay, we know we gotta go over that hill, no matter what today, so let’s get started on it and let’s work through it and get over it and then it’ll be okay.’”

What’s your favorite part about working with each other?

Charlie: “It’s just that he’s a get-it-done person, too, and it’s not ‘eh, eh, eh, tomorrow.’ If something’s gotta get done it’s gonna get done. It’s an awesome feeling because I knew how hard of a worker he was this whole time.”

Daniel: “At the end of the day... I always know that he’s got my back, truthfully. I think it’s wonderful because... I spent a lot of time with my grandfather and not seeing him. So now it’s like, he’s taking that role. He’s actually my father. He’s here. He’s my best friend.”

What have you learned from each other through running a business together?

Charlie: “He’s a hustler. He works like a dog. When you got a hard worker it’s just a natural thing.”

Daniel: “He’s very gracious... always go forth in grace. Everyone makes mistakes. Every day I wake up, I know I’m going to make a mistake and I’m not perfect, that’s part of the reason why our relationship has been pretty easy. Because I know he’s not perfect and I sure know I’m not.”

Pennings Orchard and Farm Market

Steve and SJ Pennings run Pennings Orchard and Farm Market in Warwick with the senior Pennings’s wife Jill and their daughter Tori. Agriculture found its place in the Pennings family four generations ago with the elder Pennings’s father established a dairy farm in the 1940s after emigrating to the United States from Holland. Today, Pennings is an apple orchard, cidery, farm market, garden center, ice cream stand, and restaurant.

Was it a dream for you to work with and run a business with your son?

Steve: “As a generational farm, I was hopeful that maybe he’d be interested in farming, but I never pushed it on him. But as we developed the cider business and it was a new form of income to be made, it became obvious that he could come back to the farm and take over some of my responsibilities and create his own responsibilities just within the operation.”

What have you learned about your relationship while working together?

Steve: “He’s a little more detail oriented, which he gets from his mother. I’m a little more chaotic, so he helps me be better organized. But we also are a lot alike in many ways. So it’s been an easy road. I’ve learned to just let it go. Let him try new things, bring new ideas to the table. It’s always a changing world all the time so you have to be open to operating differently.”

SJ: “I think we’re really good at doing things on the fly, and that comes from him and mom, too. Sometimes maybe I can be a little too pushy with trying to do new things, but I feel very lucky that my dad has never been just a shut-down kind of a guy. We’re getting better and better at agreeing to disagree. And it never turns into an argument.”

What makes you successful business partners?

Steve: “Our ultimate goal is always just for our success and the success of our family and our business. We have common goals of just enjoying what we do and having success and being able to spend time together when we’re not working.”

SJ: “There’s not too many people I have 100% trust in other than family. Even when I know he’s wrong. I’m lucky to be able to live this. As far as the trusting goes, it’s definitely very easy to trust your business partners when they’re family. It doesn’t get any better.”

The Breezy

The Breezy is a restaurant, piano bar and inn on the north end of Greenwood Lake, N.Y. Paul and Aileen Bailey, along with their son Morgan Bailey, bought The Breezy Point Inn in 2018.

What have you learned about your relationship after seven years of being business partners?

Paul: “We’re bonded. We’re super bonded. Moreso than anybody I’ve ever met.”

Morgan: “I would sooner lose an arm or a leg than compromise my relationship with my father.”

Is there a different kind of trust between you as business partners because you have a relationship as father and son?

Paul: “If I had a partner that was not my son, then I couldn’t trust as much as I do because he’s got my back 100%. I’ve got his 100%. There’s not even a question.”

Morgan: “With the typical partnership being two people who aren’t related, there’s always a possibility that somebody is going to buy somebody else out or leave. With a family business that option simply does not exist. Your livelihood is tied to this business. Both of your livelihoods are tied to this business so leaving is simply just not part of the equation. You’re in. Full stop.”

What makes you successful business partners?

Paul: “A lot of being in business is sending out probes into the business ether. I send them out there and wait for the intel to come back. It’s all important and way more than one brain can handle. He’s got his experience and especially from his perspective at 29, it’s a lot different than my perspective at 69/70. And he sees the world through the eyes of somebody in a generation that I have no clue.”

Morgan: “Paul comes at this with a seasoned perspective of somebody who is 70 years old... and I come at this with a perspective of somebody who has a long life ahead of them and probably less preconceived notions and we find somewhere in the middle that makes it work.”

Village Pizza

For the past 40 years, Village Pizza has occupied the same building in downtown Goshen, N.Y. Sal Brancato started the business in 1980, and his son JonPaul Brancato Sr. joined his dad when he was 14. Now, Brancato Sr. runs the business with his wife, his son JonPaul Brancato Jr., and his two elder daughters.

What was it like to grow up with your dad running a business?

Brancato Sr.: “It was difficult. And it was honorable. There are a lot of emotions attached to working with a family member, especially a father-son. But the one thing that was great about it, besides having time with him, was I got a lot of experience.”

Brancato Jr.: “Growing up I was right there with my dad. I was his right hand. I made my first pizza at nine years old.”

Was it a dream of yours to be involved in this business with your dad/son?

Brancato Sr.: “I took a lot of what went on between me and my father, and I was able to note the pros and the cons of it. I was able to not push him as hard, make sure it was his decision to be with me here, make sure that I gave him a lot of opportunity to step out of the pizzeria, to feel what life was outside of here, because I only know here.”

Brancato Jr.: “But nothing clicked like this. I think I’m supposed to be doing this. I tried the FDNY, EMS, I branched off, did a couple things on the side. Nothing was like this. I wouldn’t say I felt guilty, but I missed being in the connection that I have here. What’s made for my hands to do is what I’m doing right now.”

What’s your favorite thing about working with family?

Brancato Sr.: “I think it speaks for itself when you see a father, a son, and now his son take it over. We don’t change anything, we stay with the same recipes, we don’t invite anything but our traditional background from my grandparents. That’s the ultimate benefit of being in a community is that’s what they honor about you. It speaks volume on its own to be here for 45 years, still doing the same thing.”

Brancato Jr.: “It’s the best thing in the world because it’s building a giant memory that I paint for my future. Learning off of all this, building a future off of somebody who started something. Continuing it going 40 plus years, more to come. I don’t plan on going anywhere. I plan on keeping it going as long as I go.”