Lupoli Managers Reap Big Rewards
Since Peter Ackerman was about 19 years old, he's wanted have his own restaurant.
Now, 25 years later, that dream will become a reality for the Chelmsford native, thanks to a generous offer from Lupoli Companies.
Ackerman, executive vice president of hospitality for the company, has worked with CEO Sal Lupoli since both were young men. From the beginning, Ackerman has been a part of shaping the enterprise into the successful company it is today.
Now he and three other employees are being rewarded for their loyalty and dedication in an unusual move: Lupoli is handing over the keys to his five Salvatore's Restaurants.
"I looked at my position, and I said, 'I've been so blessed in my life. Why not allow these people to have something they would never have in their lifetime?'" Lupoli said. "These are good, hardworking individuals. They deserve a bite at the apple."
Ackerman will take ownership of the two downtown Boston locations. Kevin Branco, of Lowell, will take over the Andover Salvatore's. Denise Baker, of Wilmington, will own the Medford location. And Michael Agricola, of South Boston, will take over the Lawrence restaurant.
Lawrence-based Lupoli Companies will retain ownership of its other brands, including Sal's Pizza and Riverwalk Properties.
Lupoli said he probably could have sold the successful Salvatore's chain, which specializes in upscale Italian dining, for millions of dollars.
He said his decision to transfer ownership to his employees is in line with his family values and a longtime desire to give back to those who have worked so hard for him and his family.
Ackerman, 44, now of Derry, N.H., said such a transition is "unheard of."
"To give something he's invested millions of dollars in and just hand the keys over and say, 'Just start paying it back,' it speaks to the commitment that was made 20-plus years ago," he said.
Lupoli said he couldn't discuss the specifics of the transactions, but said the amounts are well below market value.
Essentially, the restaurants were offered to their new owners with no money down. Each has a certain time period to pay back a certain amount, without interest.
Lupoli said there are some stipulations to the deal. Current staff must retain their jobs, he said, and owners must all agree on menus and pricing. While the restaurants will be separately owned, they must maintain the Salvatore's brand and the consistency and quality it is known for, Lupoli said.
Branco, 41, who has been general manager of the Andover location since it opened about three years ago, began working for the company five years ago in Lawrence. He previously worked at Chelmsford High School as a supervisor of students and truant officer, and continues to coach girls' basketball at the school.
Branco has known Lupoli for a long time, growing up in Chelmsford and coaching football together at the high school for several years.
He said that when Lupoli initially made the offer, he laughed at him.
"I said, 'What bank do you think is going to finance that for Kevin Branco? None,'" Branco said.
He said Lupoli agreed -- but that Lupoli would provide financing.
"He kind of floored me with it, because I didn't see it coming," Branco said. "It's an opportunity that I'm certainly going to take. You don't get much of those in life. I'm going to take that and run with it."
Baker has worked in three of the five Salvatore's restaurants during the past five years, most recently serving as general manager in Medford. She has worked in the restaurant industry for about 20 years, including 10 years with the Back Bay Restaurant Group.
"I always thought about having my own type of business, but I never knew where or how to start," Baker said.
About to turn 50, she said she began to think at this point in her life that it might not happen -- until Lupoli offered her the restaurant.
"I'm still in shock," she said. "But the nice thing about my restaurant in Medford is it's really a community-based restaurant, and I have such a welcoming outpouring from the guests who have heard about it."
All said it was not only a great opportunity for themselves, but to support their families as well. Ackerman and Branco both have young children, while Baker's children are adults.
By Alana Melanson • November 8, 2015 • The Lowell Sun