Ciao! My name is Tina Marie.... Smith, thanks husband for that not so popular non-Italian last name. Since people are known to judge, I don't speak of my last name in the shop! I say, Hi I'm Tina Marie! One of the most frequent asked questions among customers is "What made you open an Italian shop like this?" If I have time I try to put it in a nutshell but honestly there is a lot of information to give behind this question. I think I was 24 when I was asked by some very close friends if I would like to work a couple days a week for them in a little shop they opened up and had for a few years in The Towne of Historic Smithville. My answer was yes, of course... I had a three year old and a one year old and couldn't wait to get that little bit of "me time" in at the shop and interact with adults. After helping them for a bit they said "Do you want to be a partner... you are so creative, we will teach you the rest?"
Well, guess what... we became partners with a very reasonable offer on their end and after about a year I became sole owner because other great things were in my partner's road ahead. Economy wasn't that great and as I was trying to build up the business Hurricane Sandy hit. This had devastated many families up and down the North Eastern coast in which many of the tourists and my customers lived. The traffic through the area wasn't great and not many small businesses were making it. Thank goodness my husband had a stable income and allowed me to keep trying! A lot of time and money went back into the shop, and that 5 year business plan is no joke! Oh did I say by 26 I had three kids and my newborn came to the shop with me often, some of my very special customers remember seeing me pregnant and then taking care of my third child while running the shop during difficult times. I say special customers because all my regulars supported my small business and goals to making A Tour of Italy what it is today! Thank you.
After recycling all my profit right back into the shop and hearing my supportive husband become not so supportive because all of the time I put in without any income I got discouraged. I schmoozed my husband over and over trying to buy more time..." just wait, have patience, its going to work out" Meanwhile he did wait and had patience, with irritations and I get that.
Finally after 5 years I saw progress, a little income and I was ecstatic about the amount of returning customers and relationships I gained in time! A business in The Towne of Historic Smithville was leaving which opened up a prime location in the village with more space and neighbored The Bakery, The Winery and the Herb shop...what more could a girl ask for! More money in rent but it was a chance I was willing to take! I LOVE MY NEW BUILDING! Its bright, and I have storage and room to breathe, and so do my customers! There is a ramp for wheelchairs and strollers, it's wonderful.... ok now for the part you really want to know...
I never thought I would own a small business or be in retail, or did I think it would consist of a ton of Italian nostalgia and Italian American pride chatchkies, Italian leather bags and a bunch of torrone and pasta! But this is where my path took me and I love every minute of it, from the struggles to the excitement and to the customers. Everyone wants to know "Are you even Italian?" Well... here it is... I am not full blooded or even 50%, not even sure if I'm 20%. But what I do know is that I grew up with the most amazing, loving, loud, Italian-American Grandparents EVER! My mom was adopted by Julius and Eleanor Perino. My Grandma is the best cook ever and my Grandfather is the smartest man alive...because he married Grandma! They are my inspiration, my knowledge on Italian Nostalgia and the reason I was able to take this shop into my own hands comfortably knowing...I'm not Full Blooded Italian. Because I do get the stares ... Luckily I have enough cornicello in the store for protection! If you're reading this and you've been in the shop,
I want to thank you for supporting A Tour of Italy, whether you purchased something or just simply enjoyed the ambience, its all appreciated and there is always more to come, so don't make it your one and only trip!
"Have you been to Italy?" is another question I hear. As of now 2018 and owning the shop for I think 7 years... I have a 10 year old, 8 year old and an almost 5 year old, so no I haven't made it out yet... but this year may be the year and the trip I've been dreaming of! My research and networking never stops. My amazing connections and merchants have helped me to create this walk down memory lane while also staying current with the shopping demands of my customers! I use merchants across America that either Import Italian goods or have created amazing Italian-American products themselves. I use companies that carry Italian themed goods. I also import certain products directly, for example my leather bags from Florence.
Lastly, Being a Mother, Wife and Entrepreneur is a lot to balance, but this is the beauty of The American Dream and Hard Work Pays Off Concept. I wrote this novel for the customers who were interested in why this shop came along. Its built around Faith, Family and Friends. And I hope I have done my job to help you feel that when you visit! If I don't get the pleasure to meet you, be easy on the Irish lady that helps me! I owe her a big Thank You too.