Growing up in the back of his dad’s Brooklyn pizzeria, Joe LaMonaca cultivated a taste for the culinary arts and close-knit relationships. Today, he’s brought an authentic, New York-style neighborhood deli to the small town of Hillsville, serving up delicious, scratch-made bagels with a heaping side of community.
“We started to build a relationship,” Joe explains. “She’s given me a lot of insight and information on different marketing channels.”
Teresa’s advice initially helped Joe connect directly with his audience through mailers and social media. Long-term goals include increasing online presence and community support.
For Joe, the work of developing community comes naturally. As a vendor with the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the City of Galax, he spent eight months providing meals for the local nonprofit God’s Storehouse and Soup Kitchen. For the deli’s six-month anniversary, he donated 15 percent of the company’s net profit from that day to the town’s inclusive playground project, Britni’s Discovery Park. Recently, Joe has begun donating cookies and milk to the Carroll County Public Library’s story time.
“You gotta take care of the kids,” he says. “It’s nothing big. It doesn’t cost me much, but it puts a smile on all the kids’ faces.”
Joe’s community engagement has garnered Hillsville’s support. However, recent inflation has posed a major challenge for his business, with costs rising 60 percent. That has prompted Joe to develop more environmentally friendly practices, including switching plastic containers for fully compostable sugarcane boxes and purchasing fresh produce from local orchards.
“We try our best to be good stewards of the earth and the community,” he explains.
As Toasters Deli pivots to meet recent challenges, the Blue Ridge Crossroads SBDC has supported Joe with industry research, marketing guidance, and training on tools such as Facebook, Google My Business, Yelp and Tripadvisor.
In turn, Joe has built a strong online presence and created seven jobs, retaining happy employees during a time when many businesses have struggled with labor shortages.
“One of the best assets you have as a business owner is the great people around you,” Joe explains. “Toasters is helping to support them, and the community is helping to support us.”
Toasters Deli continues to thrive, in large part due to Joe’s ability to cultivate relationships with his employees, his community and the SBDC, which he readily recommends to potential business owners.
“The SBDC is a great tool with a lot of information and a lot of helpful people. It’s a very good idea to be connected with them if you’re going to open a new business.”