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Business Profile: Keeping it in the Family: Azzara’s Italian Restaurant

December 27, 2021 | Kayla Anderson

On a weekday night in the shoulder season, people are trickling into the popular IV Italian restaurant to get hearty, traditional meals crafted with love. 

Azzara’s has been around since 1956, when Sam Azzara used his mother Vita’s recipes to open a restaurant in Stanton, California. He relocated to Incline Village in 1978 and opened a location here, quickly becoming an integral part of the community. 

Meanwhile, Sam’s youngest daughter Andrea graduated from IHS and went to school at University of Nevada, Las Vegas on the millennial scholarship. She loved to cook and graduated with a degree in culinary arts management, moving back to Northern Nevada. In 2007, Andrea and her husband Cord Gitchell took over Azzara’s.  

A lot has changed over the years, but Azzara’s has come out stronger than ever. Sam passed away in 2018 and the Gitchells are currently raising three sons: 15-year-old Tate, 12-year-old Dane, and 9-year-old Mac. Especially during the pandemic, it helped to have them around.  

“Tate is old enough to work now, it’s a huge gamechanger. He helps me unload food, he busses tables; he’s just as capable as any of my adult staff,” Andrea says. She also credits the continued success of Azzara’s to their ability to adapt quickly, implementing carry out, online ordering, and delivery services when they reopened. 

Azzara’s treats their staff well, allowing them to keep 100 percent of their employees when things started opening back up.  For instance, just look at head chef Valentina Medina and Zoelia Medina who’ve been with the restaurant for more than 40 years.

When asked whether her sons have expressed interest in taking over Azzara’s, Andrea replies, “Hopefully one of them will take it over. They’ve all talked about it…one will say, ‘When I run this place, I’m going to be the bartender and you’re going to do dishes or something like that,’ but that’s just them being boys,” she smiles. However, Andrea is adamant about encouraging her children to follow their hearts and pursue their own interests.

Only time will tell…Andrea and Cord were young when they took over the business and still have a lot of years left. And although it’s hard running Azzara’s without her dad around, fortunately being involved in the restaurant helps keep his memory alive. 

“People loved to see him, running around bussing tables, and we were always telling him to slow down,” Andrea says.  

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Business Feature: The Potlach

December 10, 2021 | Kayla Anderson

Celebrating 50 years in business, Lisa and Aaron Nelson sell unique jewelry and gift items that make it one of the best boutique shops to visit for any occasion. The Potlatch was originally started by the Ross family on Ski Way in Incline Village and bought Native American jewelry from Lisa’s grandparents who were traders. The Ross’s sold the business to the Olsen family, who then sold it to the Wurtele’s (Lisa’s grandparents) eventually took it over. Lisa and her mother Lynn Brown lived in the house behind the store, and Brown eventually bought the store and moved it to the Raley’s Shopping Center. 

Lisa took over The Potlatch in 2010 and still enjoys curating jewelry and other gift items from small mom-and-pop businesses. From home décor items to skincare, clothing, and children’s products, The Potlatch has it all. And while COVID-19 created some challenges with staffing and inventory, Lisa feels lucky to have great employees, repeat customers, and a supportive community.

“It takes a lot to run this business. But luckily, I have a great core group of amazing managers,” Lisa says. And she emphasizes being incredibly grateful for the employees (and customers) who’ve stuck with her through the pandemic. 

“It’s like having a second family. Especially during Covid, I’ve found that this is a nice little community, being able to lean on people and residents who come in to spend money,” Lisa says. 

The Nelsons have two daughters, 10-year-old Penny and 12-year-old Katie, who are also “jewelry addicts”, Lisa says. When asked if her daughters have plans to take over The Potlatch someday, Lisa responds, “They talk about it all the time. In their ‘What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?’ reports for school, they say they want to be shopkeepers. My fifth grader says she wants to run a candy store.”

They already have a leg up on knowing how the business runs and Lisa appreciates their help. 

“They know how to use an adding machine, they’ll vacuum, clean windows. They’re reliable… and their little fingers are perfect for handling necklace clasps and earrings,” she smiles. “It’s cute, it reminds me of working with my mom,” Lisa adds.

This article originally appeared in the 2021 Fall Live.Work.Play. publication. 

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