Nicotra’s COMMONS café, a quick-service eatery where 100% of the profits go to charities in Staten Island, has inspired friends to tell Nicotra that he’s created a Newman-style philanthropic business model for this millennium.
At the café, your meal is on a mission to make you “Eat Good. Do Good.” Established in 2011 with the Nicotra’s $1.6 million gift, the café has awarded nearly $700,000 in grants to Staten Island nonprofits, as well as scholarships for the Nicotras’ employees’ children through the Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation.
“We like to say that the café is serving meals that are on a mission and that each meal makes a difference. The money you spend on a cup of coffee or a fresh mixed salad doesn’t stop at the register,” says Nicotra.
“It’s an investment in the community. It keeps streets clean and plants flowers. It sends kids to school. It keeps arts and music in our community and creates a funding opportunity where there was none.”
The café is rooted in the Nicotras’ love of food. In 1976, they opened their first Everything Yogurt store near Manhattan’s Wall Street, expanding to more than 250 franchises internationally. In 2003, they sold Everything Yogurt, and by then, Richard was a nationally recognized expert in shopping centers and food court development.
The philanthropic couple sees Staten Island as a small town with big opportunities. Currently, the Nicotras are in the design phase for a second eatery following the COMMONS café’s give-back model.
Their investment in this new eatery, Pienza: Pizza, Pasta & Porchetta, will double the amount of grants and scholarships awarded to their native borough.
The new restaurant will be a feature of their next development, Corporate Commons Three, a 330,000-square-foot building that will house an organic rooftop garden, apiary, vineyard, and outdoor classroom for students to learn about the environment.
The Nicotras hope the social enterprises will last beyond their lifetime, making their life’s work a continuing legacy for the Staten Island community.