Tracy Salerno of Peter Salerno Inc.: Exclusive Interview
It’s often said that behind every great man is a great woman. But when it comes to Peter Salerno, his wife Tracy certainly doesn’t stand behind him. For decades, the two have stood side by side, not only as husband and wife but as the “patriarch and matriach” of Peter Salerno Inc.
Ask anyone in the Peter Salerno Inc. showroom and offices, and they’ll tell you quickly that Tracy is a driving force behind the business. She not only handles much of the day-to-day business operations of Peter Salerno Inc., but also has a vast working knowledge of custom kitchen, bath, interior and cabinetry design.
Since Peter Salerno Inc.’s humble beginnings in 1997, Tracy Salerno has played an integral role in its management, growth and overall success. We were privileged to take a few minutes out of Tracy’s busy schedule for an exclusive interview. In it, we learned about Tracy and Peter’s humble beginnings, current projects and business partners, stories from the Peter Salerno Inc. showroom, and plans for the future.
Interview with Tracy Salerno of Peter Salerno Inc.
Peter Salerno Blog (PSB): What do you remember about the first day Peter Salerno Inc. opened?
Tracy Salerno: First a little background: before opening Peter Salerno Inc, Peter worked in a family business owned by his father and uncle. For various reasons, but mainly so Peter’s artistic vision wouldn’t be stifled, we discussed Peter leaving and going out on his own, but he had to be ready to make that move, so the timetable was all up to him. Meantime, our children were both in school full time and I was going to get back into teaching.
I had my interview all set up and two days before, Pete said, “I’m leaving and you have to come work for me. It’ll just be us for awhile. By the way, I’m looking for a building to buy or rent.” A bit of a shock, but okay – I canceled my interview and took a crash course in Quickbooks, wood species and cabinet styles. Hardware catalogs were my nightly reading. The day we opened our first showroom, I remember feeling a little queasy, not sure if it was excitement or fear. We had it all on the line, all our money, our home….we had to make it work. But somehow, butterflies and all, I just knew it would all be okay. We have always believed the only way to get ahead is to dive in, start swimming and have faith. No one ever got anywhere by sitting on the dock.
PSB: Could you have imagined the business growing to where it is today?
Tracy Salerno: In 1997, we started in a small Cape Cod house on Goffle Road. We had to renovate the building completely. It was a dilapidated disaster when we bought it; I took one look at it and sobbed. After that I wasn’t allowed back in until the construction was done. We had a tiny showroom with 5 displays downstairs and offices upstairs.
To go from there, that memory, to this gorgeous design center, is literally a dream come true. Could I ever imagine it? In all honesty, yes. I know my husband, I know his drive. This was his dream from the day he bought the property. He saw the land and saw the vision. After my initial crying jag, I saw it too. I knew we would get here eventually.
PSB: You recently celebrated 2 years in your beautiful new showroom building. What’s your favorite part of the new showroom?
Tracy Salerno: We couldn’t be happier with the new place. The showroom is such an eclectic mix, two years later it’s still fun to come down here and take it all in. I had a ball “dressing” the displays and I still look for new things every time I’m out. It’s hard to pinpoint what my favorite part of the showroom is. I’d have to say just having the space to showcase the multitude of designs we are capable of creating.
PSB: What’s it like working in an office with both of your children?
Tracy Salerno: Funny thing, we never built the business or the building for the next generation. This was always Pete’s dream and we always encouraged Anthony and Gabrielle to pursue their own paths. Which they did with success. Circumstances and changes in their personal lives led them here as a temporary place to figure it all out then suddenly it was permanent. It’s great having them both here, especially since it was by choice not expectation. Both are growing in their positions and are truly assets to the company. The best part is having lunch with the two of them most days….even if I’m the one paying.
PSB: Tell us a funny story from “behind the scenes” in the Peter Salerno Inc. offices that we wouldn’t otherwise know about!
Tracy Salerno: Behind the scenes….you do realize you are talking about an office full of artistic designers right? Everyone has their own quirky personality which is fun to be around. Randomly funny or odd pictures will appear in such places as…. the restrooms. Federico paints, mainly abstract, so when he brings in a new work, we have a “guess what the subject” is game. A good song on a Friday morning might produce an impromptu dance party.
My personal favorite is a photo/certificate that hangs in Peter’s office. The day we officially opened the new builing, we took a picture outside the design center; everyone was in it–that is a major feat in itself. Being a Zoolander fan, Kimberly took the picture, added some text, framed and presented it to Peter. “The Peter Salerno Center for Kids Who Can’t Design Good and Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too”. It’s epic.
PSB: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not working?
Tracy Salerno: Do I ever not work? Seriously, my ultimate “me time” is to flop in my favorite chair in my sun room with a good book. If I’m at the shore house, substitute front porch rocker with sun room chair. Puzzles. I like puzzles too; the crazier & bigger the better. My family thinks I’m nuts when I say it’s relaxing for me.
PSB: You recently started offering the TopBrewer coffee brewing system. Have you tried it, and what do you think?
Tracy Salerno: Top Brewer. I. Want. One. In. My. House. It’s a great product; my next kitchen at home will have one. Pete and I were at the factory in Copenhagen last year. Top Brewer wanted to enter the American market so select designers were given a tour of the factory and a tutorial. We had to bring it into the showroom as soon as it became available stateside. The clean lines of just a spout integrated in the counter eliminates the clutter of coffee accessories. The grinder & refrigeration unit fit in a lower cabinet. A self cleaning system keeps it low maintenance.
You are your own barista. Latte? No problem. Cappuccino? Espresso? Strong, light, in between, lots of foam, no foam…all there with a touch of the iPad or phone app. Also, seltzer; you can make your own seltzer. Soon it will have juice dispensing capabilities too. I am addicted to the machine.
PSB: What’s on the horizon for Peter Salerno Inc. that has you excited?
Tracy Salerno: Every day is a new adventure here. We never know who is coming through the door, that in itself is exciting. Through our clients, we never know where we’ll end up….like Russia. Seriously, Pete is doing a job in Moscow. Now that is pretty cool. Watching our team solidify and grow as designers and in their personal lives is tremendously satisfying. Right now we are enjoying where we are and the people we work with. That being said, we are always looking to reinvent ourselves to stay fresh and current, so you never know what is around the corner for us!
For more information about Peter Salerno Inc. or to schedule a showroom appointment, please call (201) 251-6608 or email info@PeterSalernoInc.com.