Fugo to focus on family, food and finance in talk



According to Denise Fugo, who has coached numerous CEOs through the challenges of nurturing successful organizations and promoting job creation based on her experience in the restaurant industry, a family business means business.

“It takes a community to support a business,” she said.

At 1 p.m. today at the Women’s Club house, Fugo, who has raised three daughters, will speak about “Family, Food and Finance: One Woman’s Journey,” as part of the Chautauqua Professional Women’s Network series.

“I will be talking about women and families running lasting businesses and creating jobs,” said Fugo.

For 20 years, Fugo co-owned Sammy’s in the Flats, an iconic Cleveland restaurant overlooking the Cuyahoga River, with her former husband. Sammy’s received the Distinguished Restaurants of North America Award and the Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.

Upon deciding to focus on their growing catering business, they closed their public restaurant in 2000 and began specializing in banquet, concession and restaurant management. Using the Flats location as their headquarters, City Life — better known as Sammy’s — became a caterer at several Cleveland and northeast Ohio cultural, corporate and academic venues until its closure in August 2013.

Fugo, a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, had been Sammy’s chairperson and CEO since its inception in 1980. Sammy’s won four Connector’s Choice awards for catering between 2008 and 2011.

A member of the National Restaurant Association since 1991, Fugo chaired the NRA in 2000. Thirteen years later, she served as the chair of the board of trustees of the NRA’s Educational Foundation.

During her talk, Fugo said she will also discuss several things that developing CEOs need to pay attention to, including transition planning and red flags.

“Starting a business is one thing,” she said. “Keeping it running and selling it to the next owner who will care for it as much as you do is another.”