Glorifying the Community ... “We come from humble beginnings, but since we can, we feel we have a duty to support these charities in Staten Island. We also brought in beautiful art, flowers, hotels, and great places to get married.”
Dedicated to the Bride & Groom ... “We make sure we’re at every wedding. If you have the most important day of your life here, we’re going to show up.”
Combining Romance & Doing Good
A Decades-Long Partnership
They built the Hilton Garden Inn, now home to Above, one of the tri-state’s most spectacular wedding venues, and with their numerous other properties, Lois & Richard Nicotra have become Staten Island’s premier developers. In addition to hosting great weddings, they embody a truly generous philanthropic spirit.
A few books inspired both of them. “One was ‘In Pursuit of the Common Good,’ by Paul Newman,” says Richard. “In his book, he talked about making salad dressings in his basement. Soon people wanted to buy them and he began giving the profits to charity.” Since 2011, The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation has awarded almost $600,000 to more than 200 non-profit organizations and scholarship recipients.
“We come from humble beginnings, but since we can, we feel we have a duty to support these charities in Staten Island. We also brought in beautiful art, flowers, hotels, and great places to get married.”
“We both went to St. Johns University, which is where we met” says Lois. “We were young and I noticed a trend,” adds Richard. “People wanted to eat better. At that time, nobody ate salads or yogurt for lunch. So while we were still in college we created Everything Yogurt to meet that need and were the first to open a frozen yogurt shop.” They launched the store on Wall Street in 1976.
“That was just the beginning. Then we opened a South Philly cheese steak shop, a hot dog operation, and more.” They grew to over 250 franchises and in 2003 they sold the chain.
“Early on, we needed office space,” says Lois, “but there was no class-A office space on Staten Island, so we built an office building. Before that, if you wanted an office in Staten Island, you had to find a house on a major road and turn it into an office.
“We built the first building, leased it out 100%, then built others. Then we made The Corporate Park. It’s on one unique street with no retail stores or fast food restaurants, only our office buildings, our two hotels, and our restaurant, the Commons café, where we give all profits to charity.”
“But years ago, if you needed to have meetings, you had to go to Manhattan or New Jersey.” So in 2001 the Nicotras built The Hilton Garden Inn and recently added a 10-story addition to house Above, their elegant wedding venue.
Above has remained dear to their hearts. “We make sure we’re at every wedding,” says Richard. “If you have the most important day of your life here, we’re going to show up.”
“When we walked into the wedding at Above this weekend,” says Lois, “the bride looked stunning. I walked up to her and thanked her for choosing us for her wedding. She started to cry. She said everything is so beautiful, thank you for making this the most special day of my life. Then I started to cry too. It was truly a special moment.”
Flowers & Art
As they opened their buildings, they would beautify them with art and flowers. They started with basic life-size bronzes of people, like an old man sitting on a park bunch or a kid playing with a basketball. They added more over the years and now have over $2 million worth of art on their properties.
“We recently commissioned a 12-foot tall, 45-foot long sculpture that spells the word LOVE. When guests come for a wedding or event, they love to take photos beside and even inside the iconic piece. We also planted 40,000 flower bulbs to complement the art on our grounds,” enthuses Richard.
Keep The Music Playing
"At our hotel,” says Richard, “we have bronze lyrics from Tony Bennett’s song, “How Do you Keep the Music Playing?” In business and in love, it’s all about how to keep the music playing.”
“We’ve been married for 37 years,” says Lois, “and because we work together, we see each other every day. We love being with each other and agree on almost everything. But the ups and downs of business have brought us closer, because we have learned how to count on each other.”
They are now constructing a new all-glass building. “We’re creating an organic farm with a vineyard on the rooftop,” says Richard. “We will grow our own heirloom tomatoes, arugula, cucumbers, basil. It will be a 40,000 square foot organic farm with views of Manhattan and Staten Island. It will be perfect for rehearsal dinners and small parties as well. On the first floor, we’re going to build a restaurant called ‘Pienza - Pizza, Pasta & Porchetta,’ named after our favorite town in Italy. We will give all the profits to charity, just as we do with the Commons café.
“We’re going to use those vegetables at our weddings. We’ll be able to say, ‘This tomato and arugula salad was picked this morning at our farm.’
“We’re always trying to connect our new projects to our wedding business.We want to give a great place like Above, the greatest food for our brides and grooms.”