Family ties: Mothers, daughters reflect on running businesses together

·5 min read

May 8—Catie Serio was exploring career options in New York City when her mother, Natalia Nastovici, called and asked if she wanted to take over her business, Pretzel and Pizza Creations, while Natalia dealt with health issues.

Serio had helped her mom with the business in the past but never considered going into the family business full time. After considering her options, she and her boyfriend moved to Frederick to run the North Market Street eatery with the help of her cousins. Now, 11 years later, they've opened another location in Hagerstown and bought a food truck, and Catie is also a mother herself.

"I think [my mom] was kind of was just like, 'OK, this is temporary, and she's going to maybe go off and do something else,'" Serio said. "But no, I ended up staying."

Serio acknowledges it took a lot of trust for her mother to hand the business over, considering she had owned it since 1991. While the two often have different approaches to the business, Serio said she tries her best to honor her mother's original ideas and the legacy of Pretzel and Pizza before making any decisions.

"I think that was really important for my mom to kind of see that I'm not trying to take away anything that she's done, and I'm just trying to expand it and modernize it a little bit," she said.

Serio is one of many mothers who own businesses in Frederick, many of whom are working with their mothers or their children. Now that she has two kids, aged 4 and 10 months, Serio understands the balancing act that Nastovici had to go through when she opened the shop's doors 30 years ago. Serio was just 5 at the time. Her mother still helps with the business and often watches her grandchildren when Serio does work in the shop.

"I definitely have a lot more respect now that I have my own kids. It's such a balancing act, and I have such respect for my mom," she said. "... It's definitely such a challenge trying to balance children and their needs and work."

Kayla Slusher, who recently opened Worthy Waves Boutique in downtown Frederick, said part of her juggling act as a mother is to actually involve her 4-year-old daughter in her business. When she was picking products to sell in her store, her daughter Riley asked if she, too, could pick some items to sell. The result was Riley's Rack, which features some handmade items by Slusher in addition to kids' backpacks and accessories.

Riley has also contributed by making her own art that Slusher sells in the store. The proceeds go toward Each One Teach One, a nonprofit that teaches yoga to youth in Frederick County.

"I try to make it a learning process that she's completely involved in. So she can see what mommy's working on, and she can feel like she has her own thing too, and she can then pursue her own passions," Slusher said.

During times that she has to focus fully on work, Slusher gets help from her mother and father.

"My parents are a huge help and watching her whenever. They watched her when I had my pop-up [with Soul Street market], they watch her when we're open on weekends, they're just a really big help in that aspect," Slusher said.

Marcia and Maria DeVore also know what it's like to collaborate as a mother and daughter. The co-owners of Momma Lumpia first had the idea to make and sell lumpia — Filipino egg rolls — last summer. Marcia said she and her mother were sitting around with family talking about future plans and goals when one of Marcia's brothers asked why they had never sold lumpia before.

Maria DeVore has owned two restaurants in Hagerstown for the past 30 years but had never considered selling lumpia, which she makes for her family on a regular basis.

"We grew up eating [lumpia], so we have them all the time. So my mom literally stood up and started cooking them," Marcia said. "And we were taking pictures of them, deciding on how we were going to advertise ourselves. In December, we started selling to family and friends, and then it definitely blew up."

Maryland Bakes, a shared kitchen space in Frederick, reached out to the DeVores after seeing their success on social media. They recently started cooking out of the kitchen and are still working on how many days to make and sell their product.

One thing's for sure for the DeVores: They love working together. Marcia said she hasn't worked with her mom since she was 15, when she trained her to be a line cook at one of their restaurants. Now, they're able to work together on a new project and make their own hours.

"It's definitely fun. I feel like my mom and I make a great team," Marcia said. "... Mostly it's just me trying to learn what [my mom and dad] used to do when I was younger."

Serio went through a similar learning phase at Pretzel and Pizza Creations when she took over in 2010. Now, she mainly works away from the shop, managing her team, payroll and marketing. She's also been working all year to get a food truck up and running in the future, all while raising her toddler and newborn.

"I'm sure a lot of women, a lot of mothers feel similarly to me where they're trying to do their work, but their kids are all over them," she said. "So it's definitely a challenge, and I definitely think about my mom a lot ... there's just a lot of sacrifices that working moms have to make so they can provide for their families."

Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley