Lisa Sienkiewicz grew up in a family business. From an early age, she was an employee of the business started by her parents, Gil and Sarah Almeida, 51 years ago. Sienkiewicz worked alongside mom and dad at what was originally Gil’s Music Store, then Gil’s Television in Bristol for 11 years before her younger sister, Gail Parella, joined the business. A few years later, Gail’s husband, Joe Parella, came to work there too.
Today, the sisters co-own Gil’s Television and Appliances as equal partners, the brother-in-law is there full time, and the three of them know the secret to balancing work and personal lives in a family business – you don’t. When you work in a family business, you’re always with family, and you’re always with the business.
Yet Sienkiewicz and the Parellas seem to have found a level of harmony that many family businesses struggle to find.
“I think they run this business much smoother than many other family businesses I’ve seen,” said Joe Parella of his wife and sister-in-law. Parella grew up with a front-row seat of his own family’s business – a furniture store in downtown Bristol.
“I think one reason it works so well here is because it’s just the two of them,” Parella said. “When it’s 50/50, you only have to convince one person. It makes a big difference.”
Sienkiewicz is the president of the company, and Gail Parella is the vice president, but the titles don’t matter much. The two sisters check with each other on any important matter and typically make decisions as a team. Joe Parella said he will often hear one sister say to a customer or vendor, “Hold on, I want to check with my sister on that.”
Even when they do disagree, Sienkiewicz said, “Eventually we come to the same conclusion.”
Because both sisters have children who are school-age, they face similar issues in balancing work and personal lives. There are sporting events, performances, school meetings and sick kids to attend to, and it helps to know the owner is sympathetic to your family needs. A room in the back of the Gil’s store over the years has often been a home away from home for the kids, all of whom have come to work with mom for many hours. Gail Parella joked that half the employees changed a diaper there at some point in time.