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Dads Who Inspire: In their Footsteps - Ladue News: Kids & Parenting

Dads Who Inspire: In their Footsteps

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Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012 2:22 pm

From financial planning to creating chocolate candy, each of these children grew up watching their dad succeed in his business or career. Inspired by those experiences, they have followed in their footsteps.

Dan Abel and Dan Abel Jr., CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE

Every year in college, during the week before Valentine’s Day, Dan Abel Jr. would miss class. Instead of taking notes and writing papers, he would be back home in St. Louis, helping to keep up with the holiday demand at his father’s company, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate. “I’ve been coming in to help out since I was 5 years old. Anytime I was off school, I was fascinated by being able to go to work with my dad and make candy,” Dan Jr. says.

More than 20 years later, Dan Jr. is a company VP, working full-time alongside his father, Dan; his mother, Rosalie; sister, Christina; and brother, Christopher, to make gourmet chocolates and candy.

His children’s involvement was unexpected for the elder Abel, who started Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate in 1981 after working for a different company out of state. “I never pushed them to join the business— I let them make their own choices—but it’s been a pleasant surprise,” he says.

Over the years, Dan Jr. has worked with every element of the business, trying to “learn every nook and cranny of the company,” he says. With eight retail locations, a 30,000-square-foot manufacturing facility scheduled to open in August and business that reaches around the country, the entire family works hard to maintain its success. “My dad taught me early on that a family business means getting involved with everything, from helping on the pack line to mopping the floors,” Dan Jr. notes. “There’s no doubt in my mind that one day, my generation will take over the business and keep it growing, but my dad has taught me everything along the way.”

Fred Wiesehan and Fritz Wiesehan, MARI DE VILLA

Over the past 25 years, Fritz Wiesehan has walked the halls of Mari de Villa and made friends with the residents. Having lived on-site at the retirement community his entire life, it was a natural fit for Fritz to take up a full-time position after graduating from college— a career path that his father, Fred Wiesehan, was excited to witness. “You want your children to be happy with whatever avenue they choose, but I think every father has some thoughts in the back of his mind that they’d come into the family business,” he says.

With his father as president and mother, Mary Kay, as VP of Mari de Villa, Fritz was involved in the business from his earliest memories, but increasingly so in high school as he progressed from washing dishes and cutting grass to greater responsibilities. Now a licensed administrator, Fritz also has taken the helms of the purchasing and food service administration, while helping to implement newer technology at the community. The chance to work alongside his son is especially meaningful to Fred. “I get to see my son every day, and I don’t think a lot of fathers and sons have that opportunity,” he explains.

For Fritz, the chance to learn about Mari de Villa from his father has showed him the uniqueness of the business. “He’s taught me how to handle different situations and treat this business properly,” Fritz says. “It’s a full-service industry—you don’t get up and make something in the morning, but you have to make sure everyone is taken care of.”

With Fred and Mary Kay’s other children, Courtney and Joseph, interested in joining the business after school, along with Fritz’s wife, Mary, the family connections will only grow stronger. “This generation brings a lot of forward-thinking ideas to the table that I’m excited about,” Fred says. “And I think it’s pretty neat to have your children all around you.”

Allan Curtis and David Curtis, MONETA GROUP

When David Curtis was interviewing for a position as his dad’s personal consultant at Moneta Group in 2003, both father and son had some trepidation about the move. “The concern for both of us was that it would damage our relationship if it didn’t work,” David says.

Nine years later, the risk has clearly paid off, with the pair thriving at Moneta. “I think working with your child is gratifying in one sense because you understand each other, there are no secrets,” says Allan Curtis, a principal at the family CFO firm. “But what I love most is the security and continuity it brings our clients.”

David was always attracted to the financial field, having grown up watching his father at Moneta, and appreciated the chance to learn from him. “He taught me the business and trusts me to do what I do best,” David explains. “I get a chance to see a side of a parent that not many children get to see—a chance to get to know my dad on a different level.”

Working closely with two other professionals at Moneta, the duo each bring strengths to the table as they help their clients to plan financial futures. “David is always on a quest to learn new things, and he brings ideas to meetings that I might not have even thought of,” Allan says.

While there is a goal for David to become a principal one day, father and son are enjoying the generational-team approach they bring to their work. “There’s such satisfaction in working with my dad,” David says. “The biggest challenge I face is remembering to call him ‘Allan’ in the office!”

Frank Blair and Melissa Blair, SCHNARR’S HARDWARE

At night, after Schnarr’s Hardware was closed and her parents were working in the office, a young Melissa Blair and her little sister would roam around, eating Imo’s Pizza and playing store with a basketful of items and the cash register in training mode. “I remember thinking how awesome it was that I got to do that, and ever since then, hardware stores have had a nostalgic pull for me,” Melissa says. “Every time I see a mom-and-pop store, I have to stop and check it out.”

That nostalgic pull guided Melissa back to her father’s store after returning to St. Louis last year. Ready for a break from her theater career, she now works in events and marketing for Schnarr’s, a job that fit her talents. “It has everything I love with stage management—interacting with people, solving problems and having creative input,” she says.

His daughter’s ability to flourish in the business has impressed Frank Blair, who worked at the hardware store in high school and bought it from Bill Schnarr in 1995. All five of his children worked at the business during their high school years, but Frank wanted to ensure this is what Melissa wanted to do when she came on board full-time. “I want my children to get up most mornings and be excited about what they’re going to do,” he explains. “I really enjoy being able to bounce ideas off of her and watch her interact with the customers and come into her own.”

Admiring her dad’s knowledge and accomplishments, Melissa has enjoyed learning the business- side of the store from him and increasing her responsibilities. While Frank intends on selling hardware for a long time, his daughter is excited about the future opportunity to keep the business in the family. “I’ve always loved the feel of Schnarr’s ever since I was little, and I want to keep the tradition alive.”

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