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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Buy A Business And Right Wrong

The Calise Brothers took the business that their grandfather started and rescued it from the bad management it had endured when their father and uncle ran the company. They discovered that fixing an old company can be harder than starting a new one.  This is the oldest brother, Michael.

Key Question:


One way is to buy an existing business.

Q:  What wrong needed to be made right and how did the third generation buy the business?

A:  The Calise Brothers felt that  their grandfather had left a great business to his sons and that those sons had run it into the ground by fighting among themselves.  Almost against the advice of their mother, the third generation bought the company with promissory notes. 

We have seen this story line before.  It took Dale Crownover, the son of the founder of Texas Nameplate, to build a profitable company out of a tiny nucleus that his father had struggled with for over thirty years.

Cindy McIntee took over her grandmother's little restaurant when the founder didn't even know her cost of goods sold.  Today Cindy's operation, Mo's Chowder,  has more than 200 employees and $3.5 million in annual revenues. She has expanded the number of stores and the distribution channels for her grandmother's now-famous chowder.

Q: What do think fresh leadership can bring to a business?

A:  If an idea is decent and there are some happy customers already, the right leadership can turn a struggling operation into a thriving one.  People are the magic.   This is why big companies fight  to get just the right CEO because it really does matter.

Calise brothers were on fire to fix the company because their name was on it.  This inner pride drove them to work long hard hours and to make drastic strategic changes.  The "people magic" formula always includes knowledge, communication skill and drive.

Think about it

Is there a struggling business you could buy and turn around?
Would you like to sell you business to a competitor?

Clip from: Calise & Sons Bakery, Providence

Providence, Rhode Island:  Visit an old New England family business. With roots back to 1908,  the Calise & Sons Bakery has been through the good times and the bad.  The founder gave the reins to his four sons and they just about ran that business into the ground. Three grandchildren came to the rescue. They bought the business, and then went to work to retire the debt. They did it, then they built the business beyond anyone's wildest expectation.

Calise & Sons Bakery now serve most of New England, New York and Pennsylvania and increasingly they'll be serving the world. Big chains and grocery stores -- The Olive Garden, Shaws and Albertsons -- depend on them. But, you know, even with such success, it is just not easy. 

The Calise brothers make bread from the same recipes their grandfather brought from Italy.  Yet, it took them nearly 30 years to bring this company back from the brink. The brothers learned on the job. Though there are no MBAs here, their management practices are now case studies in major business textbooks.

The adoption of technology and the acquisition of competitors have fueled growth and prosperity. These owners quickly learned a key big business secret -- grow by acquiring your competition.

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Calise & Sons Bakery

Michael Calise, VP, Sales

Visit our web site:

Business Classification:
Food - Bakery - Bread

Year Founded:

Buy A Business And Right Wrong

HATTIE: Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. Every week, right here, you meet generous men and women who tell about their experiences as small-business owners. These people are this country's job generators, the wealth creators.

Calise & Sons has been baking and serving bread in New England since 1908. These trucks are a familiar and welcome sight to the hundreds of retailers and restaurateurs who buy and sell or serve their bread throughout New England.

Then there are the beautiful loaves. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the bakery is sifting, stirring, waiting for the yeast to do its magic, baking and cooling to precisely the perfect temperature for packaging.

Meet the Calise brothers. Mike is the oldest and is president of the company. Joe is the youngest and handles all administration. Bob is the middle brother and is responsible for sales.

BOB CALISE: We bought a company that was virtually bankrupt. It was a different type business. We were a retailer then. We used to go house-to-house making home deliveries. And we bought the company from my father and his three brothers. We would have been better off if we hadn't let them go bankrupt and then buy it. But be...

HATTIE: What would have happened? You wouldn't have had to take over the debts?

BOB: Right. Right. But we did it, you know, because of our father. And, you know, we paid a price for it. The first two years that we owned the company, when we bought it--when we bought the company, we let six people go immediately and we worked for the six people.

HATTIE: The three of you took the six jobs.

BOB: That's it. And we worked 14, 16 hours every day for the first two years without a day off except a half a day on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

HATTIE: How'd you do it? Where'd you get the money?

MIKE CALISE: We didn't have money. We bought the business on promissory notes. But before we took the business over, my mother called us up to supper one night, and she says, `I hear through your father that you're gonna buy the business.' And she says, `There's only one way you'll do it. If you want to stay in business like your father and his brothers, don't do it. If you're gonna not get along, do not do it.'

HATTIE: They didn't get along?

MIKE: No, they didn't get along.

HATTIE: Just, like, always yelling at each other?

MIKE: It was just a family business . . . everybody said what they had to say, they had no goals, no ideas, no steps to move on to the future. So we had dinner with my mother; she says, `The only way you'll buy this business is if you're one for all and all for one, or don't do it.' And that's the way it's been for us since that day.

We were always close, my two brothers and me. Since we were kids -- because of the upbringing with the type of mother and father we had -- we all care about each other and we all worry about each other.

HATTIE: When you said the type of upbringing, what does that mean?

MIKE: Well, strict Italian family. Values. Doing the right thing. We worked hard; we grew. She was there; she used to work with us. My mother used to come to work every morning at 5:00.

JOE CALISE: We worked for peanuts just to make sure that we can make the payroll and give our people more money.

HATTIE: So advice you would give early on in any business: As an owner, take take very little so that you can give your people more.

JOE: Yeah, take very little. And don't look at the clock when you're working. Don't look at the clock. Because if you figured what we made by the hour, I think, it wasn't even a buck an hour. I'm telling you, it was that bad.

HATTIE: When you all took this business, how many employees did you have?

JOE: Well, it started out at 20. But then as soon as we took it over, we couldn't work with my three uncles. They had a way of doing things that wasn't our way of doing things. And within three, four months, they were all out of there--six months, maybe. We worked seven days, 14 hours a day. We made it. We baked it. We delivered it. And if you didn't pay me, I chased you over to your house with my baseball bat because I didn't play golf then.

HATTIE: Did you really? Did you have a baseball bat in the back of your...

JOE: Oh, I sure did.

HATTIE: And you went around to collect your money?

JOE: When I had to.

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