Gerardo Cea, founder of Cafe Prima Pasta in Miami Beach, oversees operations with his brother, Fabian. Their father, Arturo, is the executive chef and their mother, Carla, bakes. Area residents enjoy the home-style, Italian cuisine. Celebrities including Matt Damon, Lenny Kravitz and Shakira have dined at this family-run Italian bistro. Gerardo shared insights into running a family business that's operated for more than 20 years in a difficult industry and a neighborhood that once showed little promise.
Learn to overcome challenges.
The Cea family overcame many obstacles to keep the business running in an area of town that was once unsafe. It was not an attractive location for a bistro years ago when the Cea family opened the cafe. "It was dark, dirty, and deserted," Gerardo explained. The family had a choice to make. They could give up on the neighborhood, abandon the business idea, or overcome the challenge and make a change.
Gerardo joined the North Miami Beach Development Board of Directors and campaigned the city to improve street lighting. His first initiative was to petition to install street lights, so people would feel safer at night. Within the first week of improvements, Gerardo and his family hosted celebrity guests including Madonna and Gianni Versace for dinner. A once deserted, and potentially unsafe neighborhood, turned into a bustling neighborhood as result of the Cea family.
Enjoy the rewards of a family business.
According to Gerardo, running a family business is like spending each day at a family reunion. He explained, "With a family business, everyone is deeply invested in the outcome but not for personal gains. You get to spend time with your loved ones, share an incredible experience and have a lot of fun."
He shared that when someone is traveling, or away from the restaurant for too long, the family experiences a sense of emptiness. They value each other, and understand that each member is important to the entire company. The entire Cea family dines at the restaurant nightly at about 8 p.m.. Gerardo shared, "We infuse family and love into everything we do."
The Cea family has not changed their menu prices in more than 10 years. Affordable prices is one of the reasons they've remained in the restaurant business for so long. Providing high quality ingredients at prices that customers can afford is their expression of gratitude. It's one more way to extend the family love to patrons, who often call Cea family members by their first names when they walk in. For example, it's Mama Carla to regular patrons. Some of the waiters and servers have worked for the family business from the beginning as a way to reciprocate the gratitude for the Cea family and the work they did to improve the neighborhood overall.
Invest your time and energy.
"Running a business in general is not easy. When you include your family, there is a greater sense of responsibility and ownership," said Gerardo who starts his day at 8 a.m. by taking calls from vendors or suppliers. By mid-afternoon, he facilitates meetings with the restaurant’s general manager and chef to review special dishes or promotions. From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. he greets guests, assists with tables and chats with loyal customers. The family puts in long hours, and the result is customers often say the restaurant feels like home.
Gerardo would love to have his son take over the reigns of the restaurant, but is not limiting the business to having only him as the owner. He offers this a final thought on family business: "It is important to do everything out of love. Where there is love, there will always be success."