Having shared a home when they were growing up and a last name for life was not enough. Just in time for Father’s Day we decided to look for some local father and son combinations that share the same workplace and to have them comment on their respective differences and similarities. For some families the generation gaps may widen but the links remain strong.
Meyer the Hatter
Meyer the Hatter, located in the Central Business District on St. Charles Avenue near Canal Street, is filled to the brim with over 25,000 hats of different varieties and brands. Its New Orleans charm has given it lasting appeal.
Sam Meyer I established the business, originally calling it Meyer’s Hat Box, in 1894. The shop gained success and recognition among locals due to its selection of men’s ties and Stetson hats. Over the course of the next century, his son Andrew began working; now Andrew’s son Sam Meyer II operates the store, along with his wife Marcelle and their two sons Paul and Michael. The family is tightly knit – Paul’s wife Pascale also helps.
Paul Meyer says that his father, who has been working six days a week for 61 years, taught him not only to take care of customers’ various needs but to “work hard and be happy in what I’m doing.”
Autographed pictures from celebrity customers hang from the walls, some yellowed with antiquity – evidence that it’s not just locals who adore Meyer the Hatter. Michael Meyer says, “We get everyone from bank tellers to bank robbers” – perhaps because over the years, the family has charmed their way into the city’s heart and onto its head.
Sam Meyer II
Similarities: “We are, as the French would say, exactly of the same accord – the same ilk. We take this place very seriously – we devote our life to it. Our success is due to our cares, duties, problems and joys of the business. “
Differences: “Oh yeah! [Michael] is more relaxed. Paul is more even-tempered … Once in a while he’ll get upset … I’m more volatile.”
Similarities: “We [Sam and I] have good salesmanship. We’re very fair with our customers and my dad and I like to joke around with the customers. Like most New Orleanians, we like to have fun. We like to go out and listen to good live music. We’re “people persons” – [while] my brother [Paul] is more financially oriented. We’re all very honest – we tell it like it is!”
Differences: “I’m more laid back and relaxed. [In the background, Sam Meyer II is heatedly, but good naturedly, discussing politics with a client.] Listen to him!”
Similarities: “[My father and I] share a love for our store and New Orleans. We have enjoyed working together over the years.”
Differences: “I’ve had a great interest in sports since I was young but [Sam] has never been too interested in them.”
NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT
In his 40th year with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), Cyril Davillier Jr. has seen the “best of the best and the worst of the worst,” allowing him to achieve an understanding of how to communicate with a diverse community.
As a teenager he was inspired by his uncle, the first black deputy on NOPD – the now-retired – Sidney Cates III. Carrying on in what seems to be a family tradition of inspiration, Davillier’s son Cyril III, decided to join the police force as well, 18 years ago.
The younger Davillier, who is Sergeant of the Second Platoon, is also on his way to earning a degree in management of criminal justice. (His father studied English and criminal justice at Loyola University.)
There are obvious similarities in mannerisms – and both father and son show a sincere dedication to the force and to the city. Cyril Jr. says, “the job has been very good to me. I’ve been able to go to college. I’ve been able to send my wife and children to college. I’ve been able to help people.” It has also taught him to be selfless – “The teamwork applies to my private life, too,” he says. “You want to try to do what’s best for everyone. Be concerned about your fellow man.” He adds that he will retire within the next year but plans to join the reserve.
His wisdom is well received by both his son and by other members of the department. He says, “I’ve seen a lot of changes. But I’ve been able to adapt … I’m the old man on the job. I love the young people and getting to work with them and getting them to where they are. I fuss and give them hell but they see me as a father figure.”
His son says Cyril Jr. was hard on him in the beginning of his career but it has clearly paid off. “I’m a good investigator because of it,” he says.
Cyril Davillier Jr.
Detective Sergeant, First District
Similarities: “[My son] is extremely dedicated to the job. I’m a sergeant and he’s a sergeant. We both started in the third district. From there he went to the robbery division – so did I. We spend time together away from the job. We fish together. We hunted together when he was a boy. And we boxed. We hunt turtles in the swamp – snapping turtles – and we cook them in a sauce piquant. That’s a lost art … and when I look at him, I see myself all over again with his dedication … I always taught him right from wrong – the job made that easier.”
Differences: “My music is from the 50s – he likes the ‘70s. There’s a gap there. He’s more active; he’s got more energy. Homicide [work] is my thing, not his – but we’re really not that much different. We stick together and we have the same days off.”
Cyril Davillier III
Sergeant of the Second Platoon, First District
Similarities: [laughing] “In all ways except the whole marriage thing. After three divorces, I’m a little gun shy! But we’re both family oriented – I have two daughters, a son and a granddaughter.”
Differences: “I joke more but I have a short temper. I have a tendency to speak my mind and if you don’t want the truth, then don’t ask me – I’ll tell it how it is! It gets me in trouble. He’s more diplomatic. I should listen more. He used to give me long lectures for two hours.”
PETER A. MAYER ADVERTISING
In 1967, Peter Mayer established what is now one of the hottest advertising, public relations and interactive agencies in the country.
Though it started small (with just two other employees), today he says billings exceed over $75 million while representing 68 clients – including the New Orleans Saints, Zatarain’s, and Whitney National Bank. It’s also the largest firm of its kind in Louisiana. The staff of 120 includes two of Peter’s three sons, Mark and Josh. (His other son, Eric, is an attorney in Houston.)
Peter Mayer says the family aspect of the company has played a key role in its success, as it has emphasized harmonious decisions. Known to enjoy a good cigar, he says, “Nothing is more important than family – even the business. It’s nice when both can be successful.”
Mark Mayer, with 21 years of experience working at Peter A. Mayer, notes that they’re a family of optimists.
Josh Mayer, with 15 years at the agency, says that Peter and Mark are two of his strongest influences and that “[My father] taught me two valuable lessons: your reputation is a lifelong project. And No. 2: This business is like a rollercoaster: The highs are exhilarating then the lows are fast and steep. Try to keep it all in perspective.”
Founder, Chairman of the Board
Similarities: “My sons have different personalities. Mark is a great businessman; I was just fair. Josh has a lot of my creative juices. [Eric] is very ‘family oriented’ as all my sons are. All my sons love fishing as I do. We like to travel and laugh a lot.”
Differences: “Mark is more family oriented than I was. Josh is far more adventurous than I am. I tend to be a ‘softie’ in business. Mark and Josh are tougher. Mark likes gardening; not me. Josh likes more ‘modern’ music; not me.”
Creative Director, Co-Owner
Similarities: “My dad and I share a love for the absurd things in life – the stranger, the better. [We both like] exotic food, silly jokes and funky hats. Definitely hats. We love to travel, we like a good glass of wine and we both laugh ‘til we cry at Marx Brothers movies. We have the same temperament in that we try to find the positive in even the worst situations.”
Differences: “He’s a little loosey-goosey in terms of business; I try to be a little more buttoned-up. Also, he gets to smoke more cigars than me, go fishing more often than me and spends less time actually working at the office. He’s also nicer than me. It’s good to be ‘The Pete.’”
Similarities: “Wow, there are many similarities between us. I think [my father and I] are both very family oriented and blessed with close, loving families. We love to fish. We enjoy exotic cuisines – the weirder the better. In terms of personality we’re optimists and we’re very loyal. On the downside, we tend to be problem-avoidant. I would also add that all of us: my father, Josh plus our middle brother Eric … have been very lucky in love.”
Differences: “Well, I don’t smoke cigars and I have more hair but not by much. Seriously, I am much more analytical than my father. He is more emotional in how he makes decisions and approaches life. I know I’m much more embracing of technology than he is. He is a bit of a dinosaur when it comes to new technology. Finally, I tend to sweat the small stuff more than he does. He is generally on a ‘happy-highway.’”
Gambino’s Bakery has achieved sweet success over the years. It started small – Joe Gambino bought Ledner’s Bakery in 1949 on Toledano Street and Sam Scelfo Jr. began working for him as a young man in the 1970s before eventually buying the establishment. King Cakes gained popularity during this time, along with the other delicious pastries and desserts that they sell. Now the business is bigger than ever with two divisions – the retail bakeries, which are in four locations and Gambino’s Food Services, which sells olive salad, bread crumbs and bread, distributed to 28 states. With all these responsibilities, it’s important that Scelfo has a trusty business partner: his son, Sam Scelfo III, who serves as vice-president.
The rest of the family isn’t far, either – Scelfo’s daughter owns and operates Gambino’s in Lafayette and his three younger boys are still in school.
Sam Scelfo III says “I’m thankful that every day I wake up and get to work with my father. We really work closely together. If we don’t cross paths at the office … we at least talk on the phone 10 to 15 times a day.” He adds that it’s “incredibly rewarding and invaluable to have him with all of his knowledge and experience at my disposal daily.”
Sam Scelfo Jr.
Similarities: “We line up in taking care of customers and developing relationships with them. Neither of us have spare time [laughs]. We are very similar – we love sports and working out. Our mannerisms, our appearances, even our voices [are similar.] We are also active in the community.” [Both Scelfos are members of the Italian American Cultural Society and the Louisiana Restaurant Association.]
Differences: “I don’t know that we’re very different!”
Sam Scelfo III
Similarities: “Gambino’s has been a huge part of the city for well over 50 years – we share the same love and devotion to our great city of New Orleans … We would like to think that we’ve helped in the promotion of our city to those people in the restaurant business who want to serve authentic New Orleans French bread, unique sugar-free bread crumbs and real Italian olive salad.
We have the same values, principles and goals. We strive to succeed daily in every aspect of our lives – both professionally and personally. We also strive to help the people who surround us – employees, co-workers, friends and family –to succeed.”
Differences: “The only difference between us would be the generation gap. [My father] has been around the food service industry for over 30 years and has seen it transform. With his immeasurable experiences combined with my technological implementations, we modernized a Mom-and-Pop business into a major player in the market today.” [Sam Scelfo III has brought Gambino’s into the digital age with new software systems and on-line ordering guides, as well as new equipment and machinery.]
“I am living the American dream,” says Drago Cvitanovich, the retired owner of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant and Oyster Bar. Born in Yugoslavia (now Croatia), Drago Cvitanovich entered the Army post-World War II as a paid refugee employee in the Army Labor Department. He met his wife Klara in 1957 during Mardi Gras; they married three weeks later. The pair opened a restaurant in Metairie in 1969, and the second Drago’s restaurant recently opened in the Hilton Riverside Hotel.
Today, one of Drago’s two sons, Tommy, is the owner and manager of both restaurants. (Drago’s other son, Gerry, is a doctor.) Tommy says that he, like his father, has gotten to where he is today “through plenty of hard work and sacrifices.” As a young man, Tommy realized that the “restaurant business is what drove me.” He also credits his father as a moral leader who has inspired him to also take part in community events, as Tommy currently holds a leadership role in the Louisiana Restaurant Association.
“When I go home at night and put my head on the pillow, I can fall asleep and not worry that I have wronged someone,” he says. “At the end of the day it is way more important to do things right and be proud of it. In the Croatian community, my dad was very much a leader, I have taken lessons from that and I am working hard to be that type of leader in the restaurant industry.”
Similarities: “Tommy has big dreams and knows how to make them come true – he reminds me a lot of me in many ways. We both got married at 35. We work hard [with] long hours. He loves his kids like I loved him. We like sports. We have a short temper sometimes. We also have a passion for making customers happy.”
Differences: “He goes out more than I did and he sees what people want. I am old school and he is new school.”
Owner and Manager
Similarities: “Our personalities are very similar, although his version was Croation, [while] mine was the good old American way. We are both very interested in sports. His major sport is soccer, whereas mine is football. We pretty much have the same hobby: being with people and making them happy through their stomachs. I think we’re both great dads. Even though we have the same work ethic, we’re lucky and have good moms for our kids. We are also both bald and a little overweight.”
Differences: “My dad is very old fashioned. Drago’s Restaurant, under my dad’s leadership, is the classic example of a New Orleans-style Mom-and-Pop restaurant. In fact, my mom and dad ran the restaurant and I bussed tables and worked in the kitchen as a little boy. I think I’m more progressive in the way that we make decisions – after all, the Drago’s in Metairie has nine managers now; it was just he and my mom then.”
LEE MICHAELS FINE JEWELRY
“Sometimes the second generation looks at a family-owned business as a free ride but with my dad’s leadership and requirements to enter the business, my brother and I have only been presented with an opportunity and we’ve done with it what we’ve chosen to do,” says Ryan Berg, who adds that he always pictured himself working alongside his father – the founder of Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry. (His brother Scott is vice president of the company in Baton Rouge, while his younger brother Chad is in college.) “My dream was to work in the family business,” Ryan says.
After receiving a bachelor of arts degree, he went on to attend the Gemological Institute of America; shortly afterwards he obtained a position in Florida, then onto Connecticut, New Jersey and New York before finally earning a position at his father’s company.
“I wake up every day happy and excited to be presented with such a wonderful opportunity,” says Ryan.
Lee Berg says, “Ryan has taught me to not take things too seriously. He also taught me to try to understand others’ feelings as opposed to just how I feel. In a family business with such strong personalities, my son has taught me that you have to be willing to give and take.”
Similarities: “[My son and I] are are very emotional, sensitive [and] very passionate. We have a very strong desire to succeed and accomplish in our careers. We also believe in giving back and serving local communities.
Ryan is always involved with his children and family is very important to both of us –since the business requires so much time – to spend time with family as much as possible. [I] enjoy traveling and getting away with [my] wife, Brenda. I also plan to take up tennis again and work out more [when I retire].”
Differences: “Ryan is much more jovial, more fun and plays jokes. Ryan doesn’t have as serious of a personality [as I do].”
Vice-President, General Manager of Operations in New Orleans, Head of Watch Department, Co-Buyer for diamond department for Lee Michaels
Similarities: “[We both have] big hearts, we’re passionate, [with a] somewhat bullheaded, Type A personality. We believe people are our most important assets and that hard work pays off in the end. We like spending time with our immediate family and each other; [we] share a passion for what we do and we believe in giving back to the community and making a difference. [I] emulate Dad by surrounding myself with good people.”
Differences: “Lee is always serious and tends to be a little more pessimistic – I’m more trusting of people where [as with] my dad, you have to earn his trust. Lee is always very business-oriented. I like to have a good time on the sales floor with my people – I believe in having a good time and making work a fun place to be. I like to create challenges with my sales people while having fun.”