A Family Affair
Generations of mom-and-pop shops
Daniel, Jacob, and Regina Madwed share a moment in their Post Road studio. The traveling green-screen photo booth is in high demand for parties.
Photo by Ryan Lavine
About 30 percent of family businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent are still viable into the third generation, and only about three percent operate into the fourth generation or beyond, according to the Family Business Institute. Fairfield beats the odds with its wide selection of “mom and pop” shops. Not only are many of these businesses family-owned, but at a few of these hometown favorites, you’ll find more than just mom and pop; grandparents, parents, and children all get in on the act. Here are a few you may or may not know are a family affair.
When Regina Madwed took over Capitol Photo after the untimely death of her husband Steven, she never anticipated her young twins Daniel and Jacob would someday follow in her footsteps. “It wasn’t even my intention to be in this business,” she explains, “but after Steven passed, I had to just open the doors. Fairfield was our family. It still is.” Several years later, her then 15-year-old twins were asked to create a green-screen photo booth at a private party, and everything changed.
“At first we were just doing it to make money so we could buy a car,” says Daniel, “but then we kept getting more and more jobs and it was hard to stop.”
After he and Jacob graduated from college in 2015, they returned to Fairfield and joined mom full-time at the new, larger location in Bob’s Plaza, which would accommodate the growing Capitol Photo Interactive and Capitol Photo Booths businesses. “Our grandma probably wishes we were lawyers or something,” says Daniel, “but it’s not every day you get to work with people who get you.”
Dominick Giresi, Sr. came to the U.S. from Italy as a child and began learning the ropes in delis and restaurants at a very young age. By the time he was a teen, with a little help from mom, he opened his first deli in New York and has been in the food business ever since. He retired once, but quickly realized it wasn’t for him. “I did not like it,” he admits.
Instead, in 2012 he teamed up with son Dominick, Jr., and opened a new venture, Italian Kitchen. However, Dominick did not always want to follow his father into the restaurant business. “I wanted to wear a suit and tie,” he explains. “I thought it would be easier but then realized that whether you’re in shorts and an apron or in a suit and tie, it’s family that’s important.” Walk into the Giresi’s old-school style restaurant/deli/Italian specialty market and you will feel like family too.
In 1933, Louis Sussman opened the Bridgeport Watch Hospital, and more than 80 years later his grandchildren are continuing his legacy. When Louis’ sons, Harvey and Jerry, expanded the business to include fine jewelry, they moved to the current Fairfield location in 1957, where it was renamed Fairfield Center Jewelers.
“I always liked business,” says current co-owner and Harvey’s son, Robert Sussman, “but when I discovered gemology and stones, I decided to join my father and uncle.”
The family business continues to grow while maintaining its high standards. “We haven’t stayed in business for 80 years by selling mediocre jewelry,” he says, “and our staff believes in the same business ethics. They have longevity with us. There has been very little staff turnover.”
As for working with family, Robert jokes that “98 percent of the time it’s wonderful,” but adds, “even if two percent of the time you argue, at the end of the day, you love each other. We are blessed.”
Another local family-run jeweler is Henry C. Reid & Son Jewelers, in operation since 1910. Current co-owner Greg French explains that his grandfather, Arthur, joined the Reids in business early on, and by the 1970s became the majority partner. Ten years later, Arthur’s son Harry took ownership and in 2000 was joined by his own son, Greg. “Working with family is both frustrating and rewarding at the same time,” Greg says, “but as I get older, I have more of an appreciation for it, and I get to work with my dad.”
He sites trust as the key factor to their successful partnership. The same is true for working with clients.
“You cannot buy trust,” he explains. “It takes years to earn, and it’s passed onto the next generation as well.”