In this article, Maria Pulice (shown above) long-time owner of Fort Lee Pizzeria in Fort Lee, New Jersey, tells her story about starting her own business in America and living the American dream.
I grew up in the small town of Longobardi, Italy. I am the youngest of six children. Growing up, my family and I did not have much. My father died when I was only eight years old. My mother taught me how to sew and cook, and I always helped her with the housework. I only went to school up until the eighth grade. I met my husband when I was only 16 years old, and we got married one year later. I had my first son when I was 18. During my pregnancy, my husband, Benny, traveled to America to discover more opportunities for our family. At the time, travel was very expensive, and everyone traveled by boat. My husband started work right away. He worked in construction, the fuel oil business, and he was even a taxi driver. It took some time, but my husband did all the paperwork for us to make our move to America. My son Peter and I came to America on a boat called The Christopher Columbus. After some time of us being here, I had two more sons, one at 21, and another at 23. After working various jobs, my husband decided that he wanted to have his own business. He took a risk opening his own pizzeria. At the time, the pizza business was booming. He bought our first store without having any knowledge of how to make pizza. He learned everything he had to know about the pizza business, including how to make one, over the phone with the help of a friend. In five days, he had our first store up and running. In the beginning it was difficult. It was only the two of us and we were new to the business. Although, we were lucky to be successful from day one. The town loved our pizza and food, and we were proud of it. We worked a lot of hours during the week. It was challenging to balance life while working full time at the store. I had to do the cooking and cleaning for the store, the cooking and cleaning for the house, and somehow still find time to raise three children. My biggest dream was to send all my sons to college. Everything my husband and I did was to provide my children with the best life we could. Today, we are still here! My three sons all graduated and earned college degrees. I am proud to say that they are all now very successful men. Our store has been family owned and operated since 1973. My son, Rick, now owns the store 43 years later. My husband and I worked hard for everything we have today. Hard work pays off, and determination goes a long way. If you ask me what my biggest accomplishment is, I would say it is my three successful children, and the fact that it is not just an American Dream anymore, it is reality.
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