Workplace Romance: Couples Who Work Together

Workplace Romance: Couples Who Work Together

EVEN IN THE MIDST of Carnival, as Valentine’s Day approaches, you can’t help but notice the mushy, sweet love in the air. Flower shops are bustling with bouquets; frantic men are running through the grocery store looking for cards and chocolates; restaurants roll out their Valentine dinner menus. And fellas, a plastic rose throw won’t work (hint, hint).

Couples of all ages celebrate the holiday in many different ways. Few, however, do so as partners at work as well as in marriage. We asked several such couples to share about running a business together. While many couples are admirably strong, it seems to us that those who work together deserve several boxes of chocolates!


Thomas and Jennifer DiCerbo of The French Mix by Jennifer DiCerbo

How long have you been married? “Married for 16 years and together 20 years. We met 20 years ago at LSU—at Fred’s!”
Why did you decide to work together? “Professionally, we were both ready to make a change. And running a local business together made sense. Our strengths and personalities complement each other.”
Favorite part of working together? “The fact that we are building something together—a business that we are both so proud of. It takes a lot more than people could ever imagine to run and grow a successful business.”
Who’s the boss? Tom says, “We both have very different and essential roles, but Jenn is the boss.” Jenn adds, “I’m the boss, but he’s my favorite person, funny and generous—and there is no one that I️ prefer spending my time with more.”


Anna and A. J. Tusa of Tusa Restaurant Group

How long have you been married/together?  “We have been a couple for 10 years; married for 7.”
How long have you worked together?  “23 years.”
Why did you decide to work together?  “I started working for A. J. at his restaurant, Anthony’s Seafood House, inside the Riverwalk Mall while in college. I worked there all through college in various positions. After I received my degree, I left because it was family owned and operated, and there were no management positions available. About a year later, A. J. contacted me about an opportunity overseeing a new restaurant build out along with existing operations. So, it was a natural fit that we work together. To date, we have opened five locations together.”
What’s your favorite part of working together?  “We both know our roles; I’m very hands on in the day to day operations with the staff, management and event planning, while A. J. is great at the PR aspect of the guest experience. He loves meeting new people, taking photos with guests for his Facebook, and kissing the babies. We are very excited and proud about what we do, so we get to work off each other’s energy, and I get to spend the day with my best friend (A. J.). We bring out the best in each other daily.”
Who’s the boss (or more bossy)?  “We both are strict and fair with our employees. At home, he wants to be the king of our castle, and thinks he is Mr. Right. However, little does he know I’m Always Mrs. Right!”
Anything else we should know?
“Our three Ds are:  Desire, Dedication and Determination. We are both workaholics and have worked through milestone birthdays and our anniversary; once, we changed our wedding date to accommodate a large buy out at one of our restaurants. Talk about a passion for what we do!”


Mona and Alan Vinturella of Southland Plumbing Supply and Outdoor Living Center

How long have you been married? “Married 44 years—grew up next door to each other as young children!”
Why did you decide to work together? “Alan graduated from LSU in chemical engineering and went to work for his father at Southland. Mona graduated from LSU in interior design. After marriage, it was only natural to be a part of the family business in whatever role was needed, starting with showroom design for Mona and Alan running the business as his father retired.”
Favorite part of working together? “NOT working together!! We have separate roles and don’t spend a lot of working time together, but we both enjoy watching the business grow, traveling to industry functions nationwide, networking with our peers, making sure the fine reputation that Southland has in the community is maintained. As the business has expanded to include lighting, appliances and generators, and our children have joined us, we have taken on the Outdoor Living Center in Covington and brought it into the Southland family.”
Who’s the boss? “Alan is the boss. He has loved this business since the day he started. He likes to say he is the face of Southland (on the radio)!! The rest of us TRY to keep him in line, quite a task, but we try to reel him in, just under the radar!”
Anything else we should know? “We just celebrated Southland’s 50th year in business and our personal 60-year relationship—and we still laugh MOST days and keep it fun.”



Stacey and George Messina Owners of Messina’s Catering and Events; Messina’s at the Terminal;
Messina’s Runway Café

How long have you been married/together?  “We were high school sweethearts and have been married for 32 years. We have three children and one grandson.”
How long have you worked together? Why did you decide to work together? “We didn’t exactly decide to work together. It just happened over time as our company has grown. Both of us grew up in our families’ restaurant businesses and worked together since dating. We eventually bought Messina’s Restaurant and expanded into offsite catering in 1991. Stacey oversees the company sales team, as well as all marketing, social media and public relations. George oversees all financial aspects of the company including all business development, production and operations of the company. George is definitely more of the risk-taker by being the ultimate entrepreneur and Stacey is more of an analyzer and more conservative in new business opportunities. We complement each other and balance each other in that way. Luckily, our business is very diverse with different divisions and offices. We oversee different divisions, so rarely are we in the same office all day together.”
What’s your favorite part of working together? (Stacey) “Knowing that we both have each other’s back and experience the ups and downs of the business together. It’s been a blessing to grow the business together and develop a great team that has become a second family to us.” (George) “When we have success, my favorite part is that we both can share in the excitement and feeling of accomplishment that we did it together!”
Who’s the boss (or more bossy)? “Most people know that if you want to get George to do something, ask Stacey. George has always told me, ‘Why do you even ask me because you’re going to do what you want anyway?'”
Anything else we should know? “We learned that we have to make time for other blessings in life; if not, work and the business will take over your life. When not working, we like to try new restaurants, spend time at home with family and traveling (especially Italy) when the calendar allows. George likes to handicap the horses and Stacey plays USTA tennis for a little R & R when work allows.”



Bob and Billie Comeaux of American Factory Direct Furniture Outlets, Inc.

How long have you been married? “43 years.”

Why did you decide to work together? “With Billie’s background in mechanical drawing and drafting and Bob’s background in furniture, the business and design experience was a natural fit.”
Favorite part of working together? Billie: “It’s like having your best friend with you all of the time.”
Who’s the boss? Billie: “Both of us have compromising and forgiving personalities.”
Anything else we should know? “Our honeymoon was in North Carolina, and it’s been furniture ever since. Our daughter-in-law says, ‘All roads lead to furniture.’”



Nina and Ken Friend of  Friend & Co. Fine Jewelers

How long have you been married? “25 years.”
How long have you worked together? “20 years.”
Why did you decide to work together? (Nina) “I saw a growing demand for a local bridal registry, so we launched a full table-top and gift collection in a boutique setting on the second floor of the shop as an addition to the fine jewelry.”
What’s your favorite part of working together? “Because we’re in the same industry, but not the same department, at the end of the day we can come home and talk about our day and relate to each other and have an interest in each other’s ‘business.’ There is a lot of overlap with the two as well.”
Who’s the boss (or more bossy)? (Nina) “It’s a true partnership at work, but at home my husband likes to say, ‘It’s just nice to have 49% of the vote.’”
Anything else we should know? “People say they can’t imagine working with their spouse, but we can’t imagine another other!”



Doug and Lynell Dow of California Closets

How long have you been married? “13 years.”
How long have you worked together? “17 years at two different companies, one that we did not own and now at California Closets, which we own together.”
Why did you decide to work together? “We worked for other companies and for other people for years, and we both had the desire to own our own business. We had very similar visions. We believe a successful marriage is key to having a successful business together. We have mutual respect for one another and each other’s positions. We each have control over separate things and clearly defined roles.”
Favorite part of working together? “We play off of each other’s strengths by dividing up tasks based on what we each do best. I’m the creative visionary with a little bit of OCD; I’m also much more controlling. Doug has always excelled in operations and manufacturing—he knows all the ins and outs. He’s very relaxed and easygoing and knows how to delegate.”
Who’s the boss? Lynell: “That would definitely be me. It’s that whole control thing, but we each like to think we are the boss at work and at home.”



Mandy Simpson and Daren Sumrow of NOLA BOARD

How long have you all been married/together? “7 years together/married 4.”

How long have you worked together? “We have worked together for 3 1/2 years now.”
Why did you decide to work together? “I (Mandy) left my role at Ochsner Hospital as a heart transplant social worker to help Daren run the business as it started to grow quickly. Trying to juggle a full-time career and grow what was then really just a side hustle began to be overwhelming. Daren needed someone to take over the more administrative side so he could focus on the craftsman side of the business. Everyone has their strengths, and we put ourselves in the roles that made the most sense.”
What’s your favorite part of working together? Daren: “My favorite part of working together is knowing that we are working toward a larger goal. We are a blended family, and each have two amazing children; however, this business in a way is like our own baby that we are nurturing and raising together.”
Mandy: “My favorite part of working with Daren is when we get on a roll, bouncing ideas off each other. This happens almost daily and can be at all times of the day. When either of us has an idea, the other expands on it and the energy and excitement can be really high. We’ve created something special together and are very future focused. Although there can be some very challenging parts of working together, at the end of the day, seeing both of our passions and ideas come to fruition makes it all worth it!”
Who’s the boss (or more bossy)? “Mandy is definitely the boss, but Daren is more bossy!”
Anything else we should know? “It’s been really fun watching our children (ages 19, 15, and 15) start to get involved in the business! This past holiday season they stepped in to help when we really needed it with various things, including working at the stores and even building projects. Having them see what our days really involve is priceless, and the skills they will gain by working with us are invaluable.”