When you’ve been in business for over 40 years, you obviously know you’re doing something right. But sometimes facing major adversity can help reinforce any doubts.
When Hurricane Sandy ravaged Staten Island over six years ago and destroyed Montalbano’s Pool & Spa in Dongan Hills, owner Kenny Montalbano saw how much his business meant to that affected community.
“Being that we own the building, it was a guarantee we were coming back. Second of all, the outcry from the public that wanted us to stay was just unreal,” he said. “As you know, after every tragedy, people unite, become one, and help everybody. There were customers in here that were helping us get the store cleaned up.
“When you see that, it means you’re doing really well. It means people respect you,” said Montalbano.
That earned respect is not something new, and it’s something that has been the priority since the beginning.
Montalbano’s opened its first location on Richmond Avenue in 1974 before adding the Dongan Hills location (1894 Hylan Blvd.) in 1980. Although the Richmond Avenue location was sold six years ago, Montalbano’s wanted to maintain a presence in that area due to strong customer support, so they opened the second location at 3767 Victory Blvd.
“We had a great customer base in that Bulls Head/New Springville area. We felt to serve the customers that were loyal to us we would open a store there. Basically, we have the same customer base that we had from the Richmond Avenue store,” said Montalbano.
In addition to the strong rewards program they offer, the owner said the bond he shares with his customers is something he takes very seriously.
“We try to do the right thing. We know it’s not easy, but we do try hard,” he said. “We had signs up (after Hurricane Sandy) thanking the neighborhood for their support.
“One thing I do remember is that the neighborhood took care of itself,” said Montalbano. He added that during the aftermath of Sandy, some residents were hesitant to let people into their neighborhoods for fear of looting. However, when people recognized him and his business, they gladly let him continue on his journey.
That strength in numbers mentality from the Dongan Hills and surrounding neighborhoods is something he’ll never forget. That theme is also one of the reasons Montalbano is celebrating 25 years with the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce.
“The more people you have with you, the better chance you have to succeed. I’m giving you information, and maybe the guy down the street is giving information that is different than mine. Together, we can figure out what’s going on.
“I think the more people we have, the better we’ll be,” said Montalbano.